Utilizing a coaching model that emphasizes hard work, loyalty, enthusiasm, dedication to the classroom and a commitment on the playing field, Jay Miller has built a reputation as one of the most well-respected coaches in the sport of softball.
Beginning his ninth year as the head coach at Mississippi State, he has taken the Bulldogs to the postseason six times in his eight seasons at the helm.
The Illinois native enters the 2011 campaign, his 29th in the coaching ranks, needing 20 victories to become the 10th active Division I head coach, and 12th overall, to reach the 1,000-win plateau. His 980 career wins rank ninth among current NCAA Division I coaches and 17th among all coaches at the NCAA level.
In 2009 he became Mississippi State's all-time wins leader with a 4-3 win over Purdue on Feb. 13 in Tallahassee, Fla. Just days later, all of his hard work and dedication to the sport paid off when he was selected the head coach of the United States Women's National Team for the 2009-2012 quadrennium. Guiding a contingent that included Bulldog senior Chelsea Bramlett and former MSU all-American Courtney Bures, Miller led the 2009 U.S. squad to gold medals at Canada Cup, the World Cup of Softball and Japan Cup.
Last summer, he skippered Bramlett and the rest of the Red, White and Blue to the ISF World Championship, a second World Cup gold medal and the Japan Cup championship.
His USA Softball selection came just a couple of months after he earned a distinguished place among fastpitch softball's coaching greats in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Miller became just the third SEC head coach to be inducted into the annals, joining Yvette Girouard of LSU and former South Carolina coach Joyce Compton as part of the association's 18th class.
His induction into the hall capped a 2008 season that saw his Bulldogs finish with a 41-22 record, the second-most wins in school history, and set school records for batting average (.311) and stolen bases (126).
The '08 campaign also saw him reach a couple of personal milestones, as he won his 900th career game with a victory over Syracuse on Mar. 1 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic and coached his 1,500th career game on May 3 in a win against Arkansas.
In more than two decades of coaching softball at the Division I level at Missouri and Mississippi State, Miller has helped develop the talents of a plethora of players who have gone on to write their own success stories. Over the last 13 years, he has had the pleasure of mentoring 48 all-conference players, as well as 11 all-Americans. In addition, Miller has coached two players - Barb Wright at Missouri and Iyhia McMichael at MSU - to three different conference player of the year accolades. Since 1996, 42 players have secured conference player of the week laurels under Miller as well.
Through his first eight seasons in the third base box at MSU, 42 single-season school records have been set, and three players have earned Louisville Slugger/NFCA First-Team All-America honors a total of eight times.
Last season Chelsea Bramlett earned her fourth-straight NFCA First Team All-America accolade, the first Bulldog and second player in SEC history to achieve the feat.
Bramlett was also named to the NFCA all-region team, giving Miller 10 players who have received the honor 16 collective times.
Bramlett also capped her stellar career by being named All-SEC for the fourth time in addition to a finalist USA Softball Player of the Year, the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and the Honda Award for the top Division I softball player.
The Cordova, Tenn., native, a top-25 finalist in 2008 and a top-10 selection in 2009, became the third Bulldog to be named to the USA Softball list under his guidance. Iyhia McMichael was named a top-10 finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year during his first season in Starkville. The next season, she finished in the top three for the prestigious award after becoming the school's second multiple-time first team all-American.
Miller's first season also saw the Bulldogs go 34-30 and earn their second-consecutive NCAA postseason berth - the first time the Maroon and White achieved consecutive NCAA Regional bids. Furthermore, Mississippi State broke or tied eight team single-season records in his first campaign in Starkville, then shattered two more the following season.
Even with all of the on-field success in his nine years, Miller's squads have enjoyed just as much success in the classroom. The 2010 Dawgs led MSU's female teams in the spring with a school-record 3.48 GPA that bettered the previous mark set by the squad during the fall. That team had 10 players named NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete, tying the 2008 squad for the school record and giving Miller 59 honorees in his eight seasons. That 2008 edition posted the eighth-highest grade-point average in Division I softball and had 14 players earn academic honors from the SEC. The Bulldogs had 15 earn SEC academic honors last season, giving MSU 85 under Miller and a league-best 129 going back to 1999. Since 1985, Miller has had 133 conference academic honor roll picks.
Through his first eight seasons with the Bulldogs, Miller has seen two players earn ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year. Bramlett earned the honor amid her accolade-filled 2010 season, while Kate Jaspers won the award in 2004. Both were multiple-time academic all-Americans as five Bulldogs received the honor eight times under Miller's guidance.
Success in Starkville is nothing new for Miller, as it has followed him at every stop of his coaching career. Having posted winning records in all but three of his 28 seasons as a head coach, Miller has coached his teams to 40+-win seasons on eight occasions, with the 2004 version of the Bulldogs falling just one victory shy of number nine. His 1986 Oklahoma City squad turned in an eye-popping 50-win campaign as the Stars compiled a 50-26 mark en route to a national runner-up finish.
His success on the collegiate stage helped build an international résumé that culminated with being selected the USA National Team head coach in 2009. His journey to the position started during the 1992-96 quadrennium when he served on the National Team selection committee that would, ultimately, be in charge of choosing the inaugural USA Softball team to compete in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
He has gone on to serve in various capacities with the organization, including head coaching stints of the USA Red squad that captured gold at the 2001 U.S. Cup and the USA Elite team that took home the 2003 Canada Cup championship after claiming runner-up honors the previous year. He also was an assistant coach for the USA National Team in gold medal runs at both the Pacific Rim Sports Summit and the Intercontinental Cup in 2004. He served on the coaching staff of the USA Elite squad in its run to a silver medal at the 2005 Canada Cup, and the 2006 World University squad, including Bures, that won the gold medal in Taiwan. The 2007 slate saw him skipper the United States Junior National Team to the gold medal at the Junior World Championships in The Netherlands after the squad posted a perfect 10-0 mark in the qualifier the previous fall.
"Coaching with USA Softball has helped tremendously because you are working not only with the best coaches in the United States, but the top in the world also," he said. "It has enabled me to exchange ideas and talk about what works and what doesn't work. That's a continual process. You do that each time."
That interaction with some of the top names in the sport not only helped him in Starkville, but also during his 15-year tenure as the head coach at Missouri. There, he led the Tigers to a pair of Women's College World Series appearances in 1991 and 1994, five NCAA Regional appearances and compiled a 556-309 overall record. In 1991 and 1997, his squads won the overall league championship and, on three occasions, his squads have taken the league tournament title.
No stranger to success, one would think that Miller would have to have at least one favorite coaching moment in his first 27 seasons of coaching fastpitch softball.
"I don't really have a favorite moment," he said. "Every year you have a favorite moment and every year you have memorable moments - from teams that went to the World Series, to the Olympic team when they won the first gold medal, to the national team programs and the things that they have done.
"Even years when you don't win as many games as you would like, you still have memorable moments. You still have kids that you live and die for everyday in practice and every game that they go out there and play."
The enthusiastic mentor, who turns 55 on May 25, has had his share of successes over the years. His is a résumé that includes a handful of conference and region coaching honors, as well as team successes such as Women's College World Series and top 10 appearances, and international experiences in several countries, as well as on U.S. soil.
But, when it is all said and done, Miller still remains humble, each day arriving in his office well before many of his colleagues to plan out the day's, and sometimes the week's, agenda.
"In whatever you do, you're only going to get out what you put in," Miller said. "That's a key to understand and we want kids with that kind of work ethic and that kind of dedication."
Miller's devotion carries him into his 29th season as a Division I head coach and his ninth year at Mississippi State - a job that he took the reigns of towards the end of July, 2002. Since then, he has become comfortable with a team that, he knows, will give him some more of those memorable moments he so cherishes.
"I think that there is tremendous potential here at Mississippi State," Miller said. "You have an administration that is supportive and wants you to be successful and provides you with the resources so that you can be successful.
"I think there are some tremendous athletes overall in the South. If you look at the states in which the SEC encompasses, they haven't had a lot of experience playing fastpitch softball, but they are getting more and more."
Unlike some of his counterparts in other sections of the United States, Miller was a ball fan of a different type growing up. With the Aurora Seal Masters - winners of the first two-ever world titles in men's fastpitch softball - training nearby, the young Miller often found himself emulating a star pitcher throwing out of a circle, rather than off of a mound.
His experiences as a fastpitch player on the men's major level towards the end of his high school and throughout his college careers, unexpectedly, helped move him into the coaching world when he was completing his master's work at Purdue. Although dead set on a career in psychology or counseling, Miller found himself taking on pitching coach (and later head coach) duties for the Purdue women's club team in the late 70's.
"I never really thought about coaching," he said. "The faculty sponsor of Purdue's women's club team asked me if I would come out and help him with the pitchers because I told him that I had played a lot and so I did. That was in August. In October, he resigned and the players asked me if I would be their coach."
Just more than three years following his informal introduction to the coaching world, Miller took on his first full-time coaching duties as an assistant at Missouri where, years later, he would eventually make a big name for himself. While in Columbia under coach Joyce Compton, he served primarily as the pitching coach as Missouri rattled off an impressive 107-51 record and won one conference championship, made two NCAA Regional appearances and an appearance in the 1983 Women's College World Series.
He received his first head coaching stint in 1984 as skipper of now-NAIA powerhouse Oklahoma City who, at the time, were Division I and looked to harvest recruits that state-powerhouses Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would grow to envy. Miller coached the Chiefs one season at the Division I level before starting Oklahoma City's dominance in the NAIA with a pair of top-five finishes (2nd in 1986, 4th in 1987) in his final two seasons with the team, both of which produced District IX Coach of the Year accolades. His team's 1987 achievements earned him Southwest Region Coach of the Year honors.
"In March, during the first year that I was there, they announced that they were going to change to the NAIA the following year," said Miller of the surprise move. "I coached there for three years and we were very successful before I had an opportunity to go back to Missouri."
Although his coaching career in the Sooner state officially came to a close when he accepted the offer to become Missouri's sixth head coach in 1987, Miller was still reaping the benefits of the hard work in his career. While in Oklahoma City, the site of the Amateur Softball Association's Hall of Fame, he developed close contacts while working with the ASA that allowed him to draw his first international experience as a pitching coach for Netherlands Antilles in the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis.
Months later, he returned to Columbia, Mo., to find a program much different than when he left three years prior. While Mizzou had accumulated a .677 winning percentage during Miller's stay as an assistant coach, the program had struggled since, going 89-72 (.553) from 1984-1987, including a 14-18 mark the season prior to Miller's rehiring.
"It was really an opportunity to build, or to rebuild, the program there," said Miller of the opportunity to return to his roots, of sorts. "That's what we worked on doing. We went out and worked hard and tried to bring some players in that could compete at the top level, and we got back to the World Series in four years."
However, the Tigers flirted with greatness immediately, capturing either second or third in the Big Eight over the next three years before reeling off a 39-14 record in 1991 en route to both the conference regular season and tournament championships, as well as a fifth-place finish in the Women's College World Series. The transformation struck gold for Miller as well, as he was decorated with his second-straight Big Eight Coach of the Year laurels.
Miller continued his work towards greatness the following season as he led Mizzou to its second 40-win season since taking over the program (44-18 in 1988) and its best season since 1981, then churned out a 31-18 clip the following season despite losing six starters to graduation. In 1994, the Tigers finished seventh at the WCWS after filing a 40-23 record, then turned in a school-record 47 wins the following season on the way to their second-straight trip to the NCAA postseason.
Two years later, 10 years to the date following his being named Missouri's skipper, Mizzou went the distance in the conference and conference tournament for the fourth time in school history, achieving the program's best record since 1983 (47-16) and securing its fourth postseason appearance under his direction. The run earned Miller his third conference coaching honor and his first such accolade in the Big 12.
"The awards mean that you have good players," he said. "It is a reflection on the team and the kind of work and effort and commitment that your players put in and the dedication that they have to your program."
Over the next four years, his Missouri teams finished each season with no less than 30 victories, making its fifth appearance in the NCAA Regionals with a 41-21 clip in 1999. Having reeled off a 556-309 record in 15 seasons as head coach of the Black and Gold, he parted ways with Columbia following the 2002 campaign to take over the reigns of the Maroon and White.
In addition to his coaching prowess, Miller is a leading authority on softball technology, having written more than 30 articles for professional publication. He most recently authored a chapter entitled "Offensive Strategy" for The Softball Coaching Bible, published by Human Kinetics Press in 2002.
Miller has also developed five softball skills videotapes that are marketed internationally. He is also considered one of the top softball clinicians in the world, having conducted more than 100 camps and clinics in the United States, Netherlands Antilles, Italy, Czech Republic, Holland, France and Malaysia.
He began his educational career at the University of Grenoble in Grenoble, France, completing his international studies program there before obtaining his Bachelor's of Science Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Illinois State in Normal, Ill., in 1978. He completed his Master's Degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and personnel services at Purdue University in 1979.
Miller and wife Lacy Lee Baker, Executive Director of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, have one daughter, Nicole (3-30-91), who is a sophomore softball player at Lake Forest College in Illinois.
- 1980-81: Head Coach, Purdue University
- 1982-84: Assistant Coach, University of Missouri
- 1987-2002: Head Coach, University of Missouri
- 2003-present: Head Coach, Mississippi State University
International Coaching Career
- Pitching Coach for Netherlands Antilles at Pan Am Games (1987) and World Championships (1990)
- USA Softball National Team Selection Committee (1992-96)
- Team Leader For USA Softball National Team at Pan American Qualifying Tournament (1994)
- USA National Team Coaching Staff (1997-2004)
- Assistant Coach for USA Softball National Team at Pan American and World Championship qualifying tournament (1997)
- Head Coach for USA Blue National Team at Canada Cup and American Challenge Series (1999)
- Head Coach for USA Red National Team at US Cup (2001)
- Assistant Coach for USA Red National Team at Softball Shootout and Canada Cup (2001)
- Head Coach for USA Softball Elite Team at Canada Cup (2002-04)
- Head Coach for USA Softball National Team at World University Games (2004)
- Assistant Coach for USA Softball National Team at Pacific Rim Sports Summit (June, 2005)
- Assistant Coach for USA Elite National Team at Canada Cup (June, 2005)
- Assistant Coach for USA Softball National Team at Intercontinental Cup (July, 2005)
- Assistant Coach for USA Softball World University Team (2006)
- Head Coach for USA Softball Junior National Team at Pan American Qualifier (2006-2007)
- Head Coach for USA Junior World Championships - gold medal (2007)
- Head Coach for USA National Team at Canada Cup - gold medal (2009)
- Head Coach for USA National Team at World Cup of Softball - gold medal (2009)
- Head Coach for USA National Team at Japan Cup - gold medal (2009)
- Head Coach for USA National Team at ISF World Championship - gold medal (2010)
- Head Coach for USA National Team at World Cup of Softball - gold medal (2010)
- Head Coach of USA National Team at Japan Cup - gold medal (2010)
Season School W-L Pct.
1980 Purdue 13-10 .565
1981 Purdue 16-11 .593
1985 Oklahoma City 28-32 .467
1986 Oklahoma City 50-26 .658
1987 Oklahoma City 46-27 .630
1988 Missouri 44-18 .710
1989 Missouri 35-22 .614
1990 Missouri 30-14 .682
1991 Missouri *39-14 .736
1992 Missouri 41-14 .745
1993 Missouri 31-18 .633
1994 Missouri 40-23 .635
1995 Missouri 47-19 .712
1996 Missouri 31-22 .585
1997 Missouri *47-16 .746
1998 Missouri 36-20 .643
1999 Missouri 41-21 .661
2000 Missouri 34-27 .557
2001 Missouri 31-28 .525
2002 Missouri 29-33 .468
2003 Mississippi State 34-30 .531
2004 Mississippi State 39-26 .600
2005 Mississippi State 35-31 .530
2006 Mississippi State 33-28 .541
2007 Mississippi State 35-27 .565
2008 Mississippi State 41-22 .651
2009 Mississippi State 28-28 .500
2010 Mississippi State 26-29 .473
Totals Yrs Record Pct.
at Purdue 2 29-21 .580
at Oklahoma City 3 124-85 .562
at Missouri 15 556-309 .643
at Mississippi State 8 271-221 .551
Totals 28 980-636 .606
* - Conference Champions
OKLAHOMA CITY (1984-1987)
- 1986 NAIA National Runner-Up
- 1987 NAIA National Championships (4th)
- 1987 Southwest Region Coach of the Year
- 1986, 1987 District IX Coach of the Year
- 1990, 1991 Big Eight Coach of the Year
- 1991 Big Eight Champions
- Women’s College World Series: 1991, 1994
- NCAA Regionals: 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999
- 1994, 1997 Midwest Region Coach of the Year
- 1997 Big 12 Champions
- 1997 Big 12 Tournament Champions
- 1997 Big 12 Coach of the Year
MISSISSIPPI STATE (2003-Present)
- NCAA Regionals: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009