As football coaches go, Dave Miller was in a unique position this fall.
The Lely defensive coordinator had the opportunity to audition for the head coaching job after Steve Pricer resigned in the second week of the season. Miller was promoted to interim coach and led the Trojans to six wins in nine games.
The Lely administration liked what they saw. On Tuesday the “interim” title was removed and Miller was named the Trojans’ head coach.
“He did a great job keeping the kids focused,” Lely athletic director Paul Ruby said. “He’s from within the system so he knows the kids real well. It just felt like the right fit.”
Miller was thrust into a difficult situation in September when he took over for Pricer. Pricer, who had been a coach with the team for 32 years, resigned amid a dispute with Lely principal Ken Fairbanks.
Pricer said he was forced to resign after he kept players on the practice field while a lightning meter signaled inclement weather in the area after saying the meter's light may be malfunctioning. The former coach also said he and Fairbanks disagreed over the discipline of players.
Fairbanks and Ruby have refused comment on the issue since Pricer’s resignation.
Following the turmoil and Lely’s 0-2 start, Miller turned the Trojans around. Lely won six of its next seven games, including an upset of Naples High in the Coconut Bowl rivalry game, and was in contention for a district title.
“I just tried to look forward from week to week,” Miller said. “There were a lot of difficult situations we went through, but the kids and the coaches rallied around each other. I’m proud of the way they worked as the season went on.”
The Trojans lost their final game of the season to Barron Collier to miss out on the playoffs, but Miller still impressed his superiors.
“Dave’s proven himself,” Fairbanks said. “He did a great job last year taking over in a difficult situation.”
After joining then-coach Chris Metzger’s staff in 2002, Miller followed his boss to North Carolina when Metzger took the head job at Pinecrest High School.
Miller returned to Lely before the 2008 season and served as defensive coordinator.
A Maryland native who turns 35 next week, Miller also coached at a high school in West Virginia and Albright College in Pennsylvania.
When Miller envisions the future of Lely football, Fairbanks said, he sees far past practices and Friday nights. The new coach wants to get the team more involved with the community and also get Lely students and staff more involved with the team. He also wants to strengthen the Trojans’ freshman football program.
Miller wants his players to get involved with other sports, Fairbanks said, but always puts academics first.
Miller was selected as the new Trojans coach by a committee of Lely parents, boosters and faculty.
“In observing him … I’ve always noticed he has a unique ability to chew on a kid’s ear when he needed it and to pat him on the backside when he needed it,” Fairbanks said. “I’ve never seen players truly appreciate a coach as much as they appreciate (Miller).”