David Miller said he recently got a call from Andre Reed, who, of course, is set to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
"I hadn't talked to Andre since we were teammates at South Mountain Junior High," Miller said. "He's living in San Diego, and so he called me and asked me if I could get him Lakers tickets. He wanted to come up and see a game before the season was over. It was great to talk to him again."
They were two Allentown kids who dreamed big, and now they're two grown men living in California who have had their dreams fulfilled.
Miller may not be going into the Hall of Fame, but as a TV host and analyst for Lakers games for Time-Warner Cable's SportsNet channel in Los Angeles, he has become one of the most recognizable media guys in the No. 2 market in the country.
The 1981 Allen High grad is on a first-name basis with many of Hollywood's biggest stars. Well, it's not exactly a first-name basis since most of the stars just refer to Miller as "Coach."
"Will Ferrell will come up to me and say 'Hey coach, what's wrong with our Lakers?' or David Beckham or Flea [Michael Balzary] will come over to me and ask a question," Miller said. "When I go to the mall, I will get stopped by 20 or 30 people who either want a picture or an autograph. It's kind of crazy."
Miller gives all the credit for his popularity to the power of the Lakers and the Time-Warner Cable SportsNet channel, which is dedicated to following one of the most prominent franchises in professional sports and is L.A.'s equivalent of the New York Yankees-owned YES Network.
"It's all because I'm sitting at a desk six nights a week next to James Worthy or another Lakers great," Miller said.
That's not completely true, because Miller has worked his way through the broadcasting ranks just as he worked his way through the basketball coaching profession.
After graduating from Allen, he earned a degree in physical education at Springfield (Mass.) College, where the Basketball Hall of Fame is located.
Miller said all he dreamed of doing at that point was coming back to his hometown and becoming a head coach — and a teacher like his mother, Linda, and sister, Lisa, who was a member of Allen's 1981 state title team.
Instead, his career arc went on a different path. He began coaching the junior varsity at Springfield and then got into pro ball as an assistant in the USBL. He became a grad assistant at Eastern Kentucky.
Along the way, he met Bobby Knight, whose best friend was Bob Weltlich, and that connection led Miller to a job at the University of Texas, and then it was on to Arizona State, Army, Lamar and Utah State. It was at Utah State that Miller earned the reputation of being a top recruiter.
That led him to Los Angeles, where he became a member of Henry Bibby's staff at USC.
After the Trojans made the NCAA's Elite Eight in 2001, Miller left the collegiate ranks and joined Byron Scott with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for a couple of seasons, helping to develop a rising star named Chris Paul.
But after 20 years on the road as both a college and NBA coach, Miller said he tired of hotel rooms and missing the games of his sons David Miller III and Mike. And then a daughter, Samantha, was born in 2001.
The broadcasting bug bit after he returned to his Manhattan Beach, Calif., home.
The same gift for gab that served him well as a coach and recruiter paved the way for him in radio/TV.
First, Miller landed a regular gig doing Lakers pregame, halftime and postgame shows on L.A.'s ESPN affiliate. He also got to do a popular show called "Weekend Warrior" with Dr. Robert Klapper, the chief orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The folks at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., took notice, and soon Miller was landing TV spots as a Lakers correspondent on SportsCenter. He also did "Outside the Lines" and "SportsNation."
But the big break for him, he said, was regular appearances as a basketball insider on the "Mike and Mike" radio show. It started with Lakers information, but became all things NBA.
"Those guys started calling me a young Hubie Brown, which I took as a compliment because I consider him one of the best NBA analysts ever," Miller said. "I really have to thank Mike [Greenberg] and Mike [Golic] for giving me the window and opportunity to make this TV thing happen."
So, when Time-Warner Cable began its SportsNet channel, which almost exclusively covers the Lakers, Miller was a natural fit.
"They hired me as a studio host, analyst and reporter and I cover the Lakers exclusively," he said. "I do the pregame, halftime and postgame shows. And I do the off-game night shows like the 'Lake Show' and an 'Access SportsNet Lakers' shows. I work six nights a week and it's all Lakers."
Miller brings a lot of energy and passion to his job, but speaks in a manner that even the casual fan can understand.
"To me, the best analysts are the ones you can listen to and still learn something," Miller said. "I want to explain things in a way that the high-level fan can understand, but also I want the office secretary, the dentist, the doctor, the casual fan, to understand me. I don't want it to come across as coach-speak."
Worthy, who got to meet Miller's mother and sister when he was in the Lehigh Valley last week as the main speaker for the Via All-Star Banquet at the Sands, has nothing but high praise for his co-analyst.
"David is a gym-rat sort of a guy with a great basketball mind," Worthy said. "He's very knowledgeable about the game and is very good about preparation and teaching the game. He has great insight and a real workhorse. You're not going to outwork him when it comes to going over the video. He also has a great rapport with so many players and trains a lot of kids in the summer.
"John Wooden was once asked what defines a great coach. And he simply said some of the greatest coaches are the people you've never heard of but have had a great impact on people. And he was talking about someone like Coach Miller. He's a basketball genius, but a great family man, too."
And that's why Miller really likes his current job. He lives just a short drive to the studio.
"When I was coaching, I could count on one hand the only times I was able to see my kids play sports," he said. "But now, David is coaching at Arizona and I could go see him work, and I can see Mike play football at San Diego State or my daughter, Samantha, play volleyball. My wife, Eileen, has been great with all the traveling I had to do, and now it's great that I can spend more time with her and the kids."
Miller hopes his children get to fulfill their dreams the way he has.
"Growing up in Allentown, I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be where I am at," he said. "My dream was to be a high school coach and become a teacher like my mom. I never, ever, ever thought I'd be more than that.
"To coach for over 20 years in major college basketball, become a bench coach in the NBA and then have this TV career is like icing on the cake. I'm getting to do everything I love doing, breaking down video and scouting reports, and yet I haven't lost a game since 2007. Every night I feel like a winner."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun