by Tom Utescher
Last Tuesday Mount St. Joseph Academy celebrated a big league victory over St. Basil and honored seniors Emily Carpenter and Mary Kate Ulasewicz, but that wasn’t all.
The victory that lifted the Magic to a 19-2 record this winter also happened to be the 700th career win for veteran head coach John Miller. The Roxborough resident is now in his ninth season at MSJ, but his overall win/loss mark of 700-383 stems from coaching stints at four different institutions.
Originally from Reading, Pa., Miller came to the Philadelphia area to study for the priesthood, but he wound up learning the basketball trade from the legendary Bill “Speedy” Morris. After breaking in as an assistant with Morris at Roman Catholic High School, Miller stepped up to become a head coach in the mid-1970’s, taking over the boys’ program at Archbishop Ryan.
In nine seasons of tough Philadelphia Catholic League competition, he departed with a mark of 130-138. He would never be under .500 again in his tenure with other programs. After a 20-10 season with the boys of the old Monsignor Bonner High School, he went on to become head coach of the women’s team at La Salle University, going 317-203 over the course of 18 seasons.
Leaving the college ranks and coaching altogether for a brief spell, Miller reemerged as an assistant coach for a St. Basil ballclub that enjoyed great success. At no place, though, has he flourished as he has at the Mount, where he took the reins in the 2006-2007 season, starting off with a 28-3 campaign. The following school year brought a 29-3 record and a PIAA Class AAA state championship.
Miller has compiled more than two dozen wins every season he’s been at the Mount, and heading into the current campaign he had a record of 214-30 with the Magic.
To claim win number 700 last week, Miller had his Mounties move up from a one-point halftime lead to beat the St. Basil Panthers, 36-25. That outcome raised Mount St. Joe to an 11-1 mark in league play, and after splitting their regular-season series with Gwynedd Mercy Academy, the Magic appear headed toward a rubber match with the Monarchs in the Catholic Academies tournament.