By Cyd Zeigler on Dec 17, 2015, 9:43a
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Curt Miller has long stopped just short of talking to the media about being a gay coach. Recently hired by the Connecticut Sun, he opens up with the media about his personal life for the first time.
It's just never been the right time.
Like so many LGBT people in sports, Curt Miller has been out as a gay man in his personal and professional lives for years. On dozens of occasions, at fundraisers, booster meetings and other events, he has talked about his long-time partner and twin boys.
Yet the successful women's basketball coach has simply never found the right time or the right way to talk to the media - and in turn the general public - about his personal life.
Make no mistake: Miller, hired just this week as the new head coach of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, has been waiting for the right time for quite a while. When he was winning eight straight regular-season conference titles in 11 seasons with Bowling Green, taking the team to the Sweet 16 in 2007, he was a coach on the rise, slightly wary of upsetting the apple cart with a declaration that might take attention from his strong coaching job.
When he was introduced as the new head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers women's basketball team in 2012 he didn't shy away from his family, introducing his partner and twin sons at the press conference. For whatever reason, no one in the press bit on the story. The moment passed.
In the three years since, his personal and professional lives have taken a number of sharp-left turns. Despite posting the school's best-ever season start (14-0) and tying the school record for most wins in a season (21), he resigned after just two seasons citing personal reasons.
Earlier this year he took a job as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Sparks, his first crack at the pros. Soon after the season ended, he and his long-time partner separated. Still on the career upswing and his personal life upside down, Miller was content keeping his personal life out of the media spotlight.
With the announcement today of his hiring as the head coach of the Sun, Miller wants to do more. Raising twing boys, he knows the importance of role models and visibility.
"I've always had a side of me that wants to help youth and help people who are struggling with who they are," Miller told Outsports. "The one thing I always questioned as I rose up the ranks was, can I do this as a gay man? Are there going to be road blocks? I didn't know because there were no role models like me."
Miller's assessment is spot-on. He is now the first-ever publicly out gay man to be the head coach of a professional sports team in North America, and possibly the world. That the Sun hired him knowing his sexual orientation has made it all the more important to him that he share more of himself with more people.
His passion for basketball stems from an early age, falling in love with the women's game as a boy watching his sister take the court.
"I became a basketball junky in grade school," Miller said. "I couldn't get enough of the sport. I also learned to have a great appreciation of the women's game at a young age because I was my sister's biggest fan. I loved watching her play and I would keep track of all of her stats."
He got his break into coaching as a senior in high school in Girard, Penn., when he was asked to coach the seventh- and eighth-grade girls basketball team. He was hooked. After that first season he knew he wanted to coach basketball - and women in particular - for the rest of his life.
His first college gig was as an assistant coach at Cleveland State under Loretta Hummeldorf. He was suddenly coaching Div. I basketball at the age of 22. At 25 he took a coaching job at Syracuse Univ.
While his career was on the fast track, inside he knew he was struggling. It was at Syracuse that he first allowed himself to explore his sexual orientation outside his own head.
"I began driving by the gay bars in Syracuse. I would park in the parking lots and watch what type of guys would enter the bars. I finally got up the courage on one snowy night to enter the bar. I couldn't believe there were guys out there like me."
It was also in Syracuse that he met his long-time partner. The two would be together for the next 20 years.
As he moved up the college coaching ranks, he moved more and more out of the closet. At Colorado State, Bowling Green and Indiana his sexual orientation increasingly became, as it is for so many coaches in women's basketball, a secret only in the eyes of the media and public at large.
I HOPE MY STORY CAN BE AN INSPIRATION TO OTHERS THAT YOU CAN CHASE YOUR DREAMS OF BEING A COACH OR WORKING IN SPORTS AS A GAY MAN.
"I have lived authentically and proud since 1996. The entire women's basketball community knows that I am gay. I shared my orientation with administrations, fellow coaches, my players, my recruits, the fans and boosters."
While a couple sports writers have talked publicly about Miller's life without his blessing, his only reticence until now with speaking more loudly has been how and when to have a story written about this aspect of his personal life.
He has felt no shame and little fear. Instead, he has found love and respect from his colleagues in the basketball world. While most in the general public have not known about his personal life, the people who hired him, and the women who played for him, have been well aware. Being out in the coaching world, he has risen to the very top of his profession.
While this might be the first time he's talked about it with the media, it hasn't stopped him from mentoring various LGBT youth and young coaches who have tracked him down. He hopes that sharing his story now will open more opportunities for him to do the same, and that more women's basketball coaches will join him.
"I hope my story can be an inspiration to others that you can chase your dreams of being a coach or working in sports as a gay man."
You can find the Equality Coaching Alliance on Facebook.