Hardly more than a week after David Smart announced his resignation as baseball coach at Northside High, the Patriots have his successor.
Dee Miller, who was an assistant for Smart in each of his six years with the program, was promoted on Thursday, it was announced by athletic director Morgan Ingram. Miller said he notified administrators of his desire to be the next coach immediately upon Smart's resignation. Ingram said the school examined its options, spoke with Miller on Wednesday and offered him the job Thursday morning.
Miller played baseball at Columbus State from 2001-04, winning a national championship in 2002 alongside Hardaway coach Chris Gilstrap.
"I'm excited," Miller said. "It's going to be a little different. There will be some changes. We'll make some changes that we think will help."
Prior to joining Smart at Northside, Miller spent a season as head coach at Jordan and a season at Pacelli. He got his start as a community coach at Hardaway after graduating college. At Pacelli, he led the Vikings to the state quarterfinals, but said there were things he needed to continue to learn as an assistant before becoming a long-term head coach.
In the seven years since, he believes he's learned enough.
"Just all aspects of the game," he said. "I was a pitcher in college. I knew pitching, and I wanted to learn more about hitting, infield play and outfield play. I've done that. We've been fortunate to have good coaches around me. There are things that I wanted to learn then that I know inside and out now."
Smart said the only hole left to fill when Miller joined his staff was infield, which Miller happily took over. This past season, the hitting program was given completely over to him. Smart said he excelled at the position.
"We restructured some things and he took over hitting for us," Smart said. "We hit as well this year as any time in our past four years. He's a guy, if you ask him to coach Ping Pong or hopscotch, he'd do it."
That was one thing Ingram liked about Miller, his commitment and loyalty to helping the program grow. According to Ingram, Miller had other opportunities to leave Northside but decided against it over the years.
"He was loyal to us, and he was immediately one person we thought about that could take this program forward," Ingram said.
"He loves Northside," Smart added. "He had no idea, and no one really had any idea, that his time would come so soon here. But he's been loyal and always studying, trying to become better."
The expectations of Miller are to take a solid program that has experienced recent runs of success and take it to the next level. Under Smart, Northside went 93-68 and made the quarterfinals twice, both in his first two seasons. After two seasons without making the playoffs, the Patriots lost in the first round in 2013 and 2014.
Smart left to take a break from coaching, which he said is a demanding profession. He will remain at Northside as an assistant football coach and special education teacher. He said this wasn't a decision for forever, just a "little respite."
Miller said that his familiarity with the players and vice versa would allow for an easy transition. He's stepped into more of a leadership role over the years, so it won't be difficult for them to see him as the head coach.
Some things will change, but most of it will remain similar to the way things were done in the past. The summer schedule will go on as planned, but the offseason program will likely be tweaked a bit.
"It'll just be a minor transition," he said. "There won't be much of a change. They know my style. They know what to expect. They're just going to hear from me a little more often."