E.A. Sports Today


Piedmont’s coach finders showed quite an eye the last time, and Miller has filled their eyes with reasons to believe he can do the job

PIEDMONT — It was 2006, late George W. Bush administration, and Piedmont showed an eye for finding a football coach.

Joe Medley, editor

The guy they hired from 24 miles north of campus had just coached his 11th season at another school. His teams had never made it past the quarterfinal round of the playoffs, but those eyes for coaches saw something.

When matched with Piedmont’s potential and willingness to invest, they saw something special.

Five state championships, 10 semifinal runs and 10 region titles later, that guy from Cedar Bluff turned out OK.

Steve Smith did good. 

Now that he’s moving on to his double-dip reward at Westbrook Christian, the powerhouse Smith leaves behind must accept the guy replacing its own version of Nick Saban.

This time, Piedmont trained its eye for coaches 23 miles south, for another coach who just coached his 11th season elsewhere. Jonathan Miller has 15 more career wins than Smith brought to Piedmont in 2006. Miller has 13 more region wins and four more playoff wins.

He took his first program to five quarterfinals and three semifinals.

At 44 years old, he’s another school’s winningest coach. The guy he passed 30 wins ago has a field named after him and a place in the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2012.

Maybe Miller deserves a chance?

The guy who beat Smith’s Piedmont teams twice could surely beat Piedmont’s rivals.

The guy who more than ably manned the opposing sideline in that 52-44, overtime semifinal classic in 2021 can do the job at a program that has more depth and better facilities, and whose fans filled the visiting grandstand.

It’ll take some Piedmont fans accepting a rival’s coach whose ways might diverge from Smith’s, and let’s address the elephant in the room. 

Smith naturally threw his public support behind his 17-year defensive coordinator. James Blanchard naturally wanted the job and said so publicly.

“For 17 years, I’ve seen how it’s done,” Piedmont’s interim head coach said in January. “I’ve been a part of how it’s done, so I think that plays a big part into, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s a compelling argument, and Smith’s right-hand man built a well-earned well of support in Piedmont.

No one doubts that he, too, could’ve done the job. 

Piedmont’s 46 applicants likely aren’t like other schools’ applicants. Piedmont’s three finalists likely aren’t like other schools’ finalists. 

Bet that the culling came from a high-quality batch. Like Miller said, Piedmont “checks all of the boxes” on a coach’s wish list.

Also, bet on the eye Piedmont’s coach hunters have for coaches. They’ve seen Miller’s work from across the field on too many anxious Friday nights.

As much as they’ve appreciated the volumes Miller’s Xs and Os spoke, they’ve also appreciated the volumes Miller didn’t speak. Has anyone ever heard the publicly low-key Miller publicly air the usual gripes directed at Piedmont?

Miller put his head down and competed, just like one would expect from one of Larry Ginn’s former players. No excuses.

His players competed and carried themselves in ways that spoke more volumes, and Piedmont’s eyes for coaches see such things. 

It worked out well with the last guy who came to Piedmont after 11 successful seasons elsewhere. There’s every reason to believe it’ll work out well with the next one.

Cover photo: Saks coach Jonathan Miller works the sideline at Saks. Piedmont hired him to do the same Monday. (File photo by B.J. Franklin/gunghophotos.com)

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