Sports Odds & Ends
Shimmy Gray-Miller begins her first season as Minnesota associate WBB head coach. HC Lindsay Whalen asked the 20-years-plus coaching veteran about the vacant position this past spring.
But according to her, Gray-Miller needed to be convinced by the 2022 Basketball HOFer to accept the promotion. “Once Lindsay reached out to me about this opening,” admitted the Flint, Mich. native, “I actually told her I’m very, very flattered and very grateful that that’s how she thinks of me and she has that level of trust in me. I told her that I didn’t need the title.”
Gray-Miller joined the Gophers in 2021 and worked with the team’s post players, coordinating recruiting visits, preparing scouting reports and game strategies. “I’ve been a former head coach,” she pointed out. “I don’t need that title on a business card after my name to know my value.
“We have a great staff,” Gray-Miller said. “We have great chemistry. I didn’t want anyone to think that I’m trying to elevate myself over anyone” after one year in Minnesota, she stressed.
Whalen nonetheless persisted, and told Gray-Miller to take her time and think about her offer: “She brought it up again a few weeks later,” she recalled.
“She said it was very important for everyone from our players to our support staff and administration [to know] who was going to be running things in her absence. That there was a plan in place.”
The Gopher head coach’s closing argument made perfect sense, said Gray-Miller. “From this perspective, it made sense to me and was so comfortable… How could I turn that down? All that means is she relies on me a lot more.”
A 1994 Michigan graduate and former Wolverine player who has been in coaching since 2000, Gray-Miller this summer achieved another life milestone—she finally finished her academic work for her master’s degree in athletic leadership and organizational development. Unbeknown to most, except for a few including Whalen, Gray-Miller used the last two years to finish up her coursework.
“I started my master’s when I was an assistant at the University of Arizona,” said Gray-Miller. “That was in 2000.” Then she got hired at St. Louis University and Arizona told her she could transfer her credits there.
“I said no, I’ve got too much going on right now, I’m just gonna take a break. I’m gonna take a year off. That was 2005 and that year turned into like 16 years.”
Along the way, Gray-Miller’s mother got sick, and Shimmy got seriously hurt in a car accident. Time moves on, she changes jobs, then eventually a pandemic hit. “All those things happen in a row, so any one of those things makes you really think about what’s important, things that are unfulfilled,” she explained. She finally decided to get down to work and finish what she started over a decade earlier.
“I got accepted [by Clemson University] and I didn’t really tell a lot of people, just a few close friends,” said Gray-Miller, who balanced work and school. “So, what worked best for me is I would get up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning. The mornings were dedicated to school and it was great. My phone usually doesn’t start ringing til about 8:30, so that gave me three solid hours a day that I could devote to school.
“I’d get some tea or coffee. I would put on Miles Davis. I love the way it energized me. I’ve had energy going into work in the morning.”
After accepting the Minnesota job a year ago, Gray-Miller didn’t get detoured this time around. “I couldn’t take a year off. If I did, I didn’t know if I would go back.”
Now, armed with a new degree and a new title, Gray-Miller looks forward to a new season as well. “It’s been very fulfilling.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.