INDIANPOLIS--Cam Fuller caught up with UIC head coach Regina Miler after the Flames Dec. 7 victory at Butler. Miller is in her third-season at UIC and has the team off to a 6-2 start.
Meet Regina Miller
College: Old Dominion, ‘84
UIC record: 33-36 (third season)
Career record: 268-261 (19th season)
- Horizon League Preseason Poll pegged UIC to finish fourth in the nine team league.
- The Flames have won six games in a row after starting the season 0-2, equaling the best eight-game start in the school's Division I era.
- Introduced as the head coach at UIC on April 21, 2011.
- In her first season at the helm, led the Flames to the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament en route to an 18-13 overall record.
- Prior to UIC, the Lumber Bridge, N.C. native was the head coach at Western Illinois (1992-98) and UNLV (1998-2008).
- Posted a stellar 175-125 mark in 10 seasons as the head coach at the UNLV.
- Coached the Running Rebels to a runner-up finish in the 2005 WNIT.
- Served as an assistant coach for the USA National Team at the 1997 World Championships Qualifier in Sao Palo, Brazil.
- Was honored as the 1995 Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Coach of the Year after leading the Western Illinois to the NCAA Tournament.
- Named the 1994 MCC Coach of the Year after leading the Leathernecks to a third-place regular-season finish.
- Has appeared in the NCAA Tournament twice and the WNIT five times in her coaching career.
- Before her head coaching career, served as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Old Dominion (1987-1982) and Arizona (1986-87).
UIC never trailed in Saturday’s 62-57 win at Butler. How proud are you of the way the team came out and played on the road at Hinkle Fieldhouse?
Extremely proud. We—I thought our trip to San Juan (San Juan Shootout) was huge for us to show that we could win away from the Pavilion at UIC and grow some confidence. There was a big concern because Butler was also coming off two wins out in the Vegas tournament (South Point Thanksgiving Shootout). To come in and play pretty steady—we had scouted Butler pretty well. Playing against them a year ago they really took it to us at our place, we certainly wanted to show them a different team than a year ago. With the overall effort; we gutted some plays out when they made runs and some runs we trigged with decisions we made. Overall, I’m proud of the effort we put together on the court.
The Flames have won six straight which matches the best eight game start in the program's Division I history. What’s been clicking for the team over these last six games?
Our goal was to basically go on a streak—not a losing streak—it was a winning streak that was one game at time. December is a very important month for us because we have four out of our five games away from home—starting with Butler. Our goal is every game we play, give ourselves a chance to win. Why play the game if you’re not going to try to win the game? Our theme this year is 'all in.' We want to be 'all in' on everything we do and each day we are trying to build off that motto.
In the first two games the team played without Rachel Story. How much of a difference maker is the senior guard?
She is so much of a competitor. She raises the level in practice and then obviously her teammates have a lot of confidence in her, in her ability—you know—and the team is close. They like each other and that is huge, that means they’re going to play well for each other and play together. I think this team has done a nice job accepting their roles and have embraced Rachel’s role for this team, which is to be a creator offensively. She has shown good leadership and she is a feisty defender when we need her to be.
After transferring from La Salle and becoming eligible this season, Ruvanna Campbell is averaging 15.0 points, 10.9 rebounds per game. How much of an impact player has she been in her first eight games in a UIC uniform?
She brings a different dimension for us. Not only is she a presence around the basket—being able to score the ball in the paint as well as rebound. She is long, very long. She is six-foot-one, but plays about 6’3”. She also has the ability to change shots, and that is another advantage for us. But probably her biggest impact is I can play her at different positions, she is very versatile where I can post her inside and she can face the basket and take you off the bounce. When you play off the bounce at 6’1” and attack the basket against 5’7”, 5’8” defenders it’s really going to help us.
With two full seasons under your belt at UIC, where do you see the program progressing in year three?
That first year at UIC we had some pretty good seniors; two in particular, Shamiea Green and Jasmine Bailey. We graduated 80 percent of everything after that first year. We knew we had some potential (this year) recruiting a large freshman class. I think it’s important to build a program from the grassroots level; I like to bring in the freshman instead of a ton of transfers. We will spot transfers here and there and we’ve been able to do that with Ruvanna Campbell and Megan Wallace. I would say the second year was a transition year. The thing about freshman is they become sophomores and we want to continue to move forward.
The team had the opportunity to play two games in the San Juan, Puerto Rico on Nov. 29-30. How are tournaments like the San Juan Shootout beneficial for the development of the team?
Not only do you have an opportunity to come together as a basketball team on the court, but also just to spend time with each other, get to know each other as teammates a little bit better. It also offers the opportunity to do other team activities that ordinarily you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do. The better you know each other, the better you understand each other, the better you can play with each other, so I thought it was huge for us.
As a head coach you’ve appeared in either the WNIT or NCAA Tournament seven times, including a runner-up finish in the 2004 WNIT at UNLV. What’s it going to take to get UIC to the postseason?
Well that’s the ultimate goal, do something that’s not been done at UIC, to get UIC to the NCAA Tournament. What is going to take? I think continually to build. We are in our third year into this process and I think we are making progress. Coming off a rebuilding year where we won a total of nine games a year ago, even though you didn’t see it a year ago, the fruits of the labor is starting to pay off from the work and effort that was put in. Ultimately, I think we’re well on our way to accomplishing something UIC has never done and that is to get into postseason consistently.
After a successful playing career at Louisburg (N.C.) Junior College and Old Dominion, you began your coaching career shortly after a brief professional playing career. Do you believe coaches with playing experience can relate better to their student-athletes?
We remind them every now and then I played in the Final Four and we know what it takes to get there! (Laughs). I think they respect that. Probably more so, I’m still fairly active as a head coach. I work out, I run with them, I train with them. I don’t often say do as I say, but sometimes do as I do. I think they respect that and they know that I understand their points. I think I’ve been able to use that to my advantage to a certain point. I think it has had a positive impact—in fact I teased them the other day saying, ‘If I can make this move, this is what is would look like, I can still think it but I can’t make that move.’
In the offseason, what are some hobbies you have?
I’m a runner; I run half-marathons in Chicago and I have run all over the state, I’ve traveled to run them. I also enjoy cycling and row biking. I stay active, so those are the things I enjoy if I’m not in the gym.
If there’s one thing to expect from a Regina Miller coached team, what is it?
Each game out we’re going to come and compete hard. We’re going to try and play an exciting brand of basketball—give the fans something to enjoy. I think if you can withstand your defense and play pressure and create an up-tempo game fans seem to like that and that’s pretty much our style of play.