Carol Miller never was a classroom teacher during her coaching career.
If she would have taught her subject likely would have been chemistry because in Miller's estimation that's the most important ingredient on any team.
Miller's teams at Brainerd Community College, now Central Lakes College, had chemistry on their way to winning three state championships. She coached the Raiders' women's tennis team to the 1980 state title, the basketball team to the 1981 state title and to a runner-up finish in 1986 and the softball team to the 1985 state title.
The 54-year-old Miller is one of five former athletes or coaches who will be inducted into the Raiders' Hall of Fame on Feb. 5. Inducted along with Miller will be Rob Veith, Steve Stangl, Brian Winter and Colleen (Kovall) Chambers.
"It's an honor to be elected into the hall of fame," Miller said. "I was quite surprised though. I felt my rewards came from the coaching itself. This is kind of icing on the cake. I really was surprised but I do feel honored."
Miller's Raider teams accumulated many honors. Among them was the state basketball championship. Her state title team went 19-6 and wound up third in the Region 13 tournament. At state they beat Golden Valley 60-49, Vermilion 66-47 and Mankato Bethany 67-60.
"Around December before starting conference play I thought, 'Wouldn't it be neat if we could win the state championship this year?'" Miller recalled. "You could feel the chemistry between the ballplayers. You have to have talent too but chemistry is as important as talent. I could sense that in those ballplayers."
The Raiders hosted the region tournament, losing 72-57 to eventual champion Williston, N.D., before beating Madison, Wis., Tech 72-53 for third place. At that time there was only one division (not Division I, II and III like today) in community college athletics.
"Everybody played everybody," Miller said. "I believe Williston had been to the nationals two years in a row. They had a lot of experience in that type of tournament play. I remember they came out on the floor and they all looked about 6-foot-2. (Raiders center) Roxie Vredenburg was 5-10 if you stretched her."
The 1985-86 basketball team won 15 of 22 games in the regular season.
"We started out real slow," Miller remembers. "We made a Michigan trip and didn't play well at all. When you're playing community college ball you never have the same team two years in a row. It took some time to get our chemistry going. We got stronger as the year went on.
"Sharon (Imgrund) Severson practiced as hard as she played in games. She was a leader in practice. If you can find a person who works that hard and demands as much from the players as she's willing to give you will be a success."
The Raiders finished 17-8 on their way to a state runner-up finish. At state they beat Austin 63-59 and Anoka-Ramsey 65-60 before losing 51-50 to Willmar.
"At one time we were ahead by three," Miller said of the Willmar game, "and we had three chances to put the ball in underneath but we didn't get it in the hoop. That would have given us a 5-point lead. I felt that was the turning point in the game.
"The officials were from the Twin Cities area. They called a different game than we were used to. We probably didn't adapt as quickly as we should have. It was that way all tournament. I'm not blaming the officials for the loss but those things took away from what we were used to doing."
In the spring of 1985 the Raiders won the state softball title, winning 26 of 28 regular-season games and sweeping four opponents at state by allowing just three runs.
The Raiders beat Austin 1-0, Normandale 6-3 and Rochester 3-0 and 1-0 at state.
"I remember when we got to the tournament I overheard one of the other coaches say, 'Brainerd has a good record but they never play anybody,'" Miller recalled. "We had played in some tough tournaments. We played in the Golden Valley tournament and played some tough teams. I told my players what that coach had said and we took care of business."
In the spring of 1981 the Raiders won the state tennis championship. They also won three singles and two doubles titles.
"We had great players who had a lot of drive," Miller said. "We had some local players and everything fell into place for us."
Miller was also a pioneer at the University of Minnesota-Morris where she was the Cougars' first intercollegiate volleyball and basketball coach.
"I knew more about basketball because I played basketball with my brothers all my life," Miller said. "I loved the game. When I went to ballgames I tried to learn as much as I could.
"In volleyball I had to use other resources, people I knew who had played in college. It's double the work when you have to learn how to coach it."
Miller, an employee of Potlatch in Brainerd, left coaching about 13 years ago. She misses it to some extent but is glad she's not coaching in an era of specialization.
"I miss working with the ballplayers," she said, "but I'm not sure I'm happy with the things that are going on in sports. I hate to see (women) not being able to play three sports. I think they're missing something by becoming so specialized.
"I loved coaching because I didn't get to play. It was a joy to see young women get a chance. That was just wonderful for me. I hope we don't lose that. It's a privilege to play."
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