SNOW HILL – Thousands turned out on Tuesday at Stephen Decatur High to pay tribute to long-time Snow Hill High School teacher and coach Allen Miller, who passed away suddenly last Friday at the age of 47.
Miller, a teacher and coach at Snow Hill High for two decades, died of an apparent heart attack last Friday, leaving the entire community stunned at the sudden loss of a man so passionate and dedicated to his school, his student-athletes and, most importantly, his family. Passion was a word used most often to describe the teacher, coach, athletic director, conference president, husband, father and friend in the days since his passing last weekend.
“Allen was an incredibly passionate man,” said Snow Hill Principal Tom Davis this week. “A lot of words come to mind – intensity, high energy – but it always came back to his passion, his passion for his family, his players, Snow Hill High School and the entire Snow Hill community. All you had to do was come to a game to see all that passion on display, day in and day out.”
A memorial service and tribute was held at Stephen Decatur High School on Tuesday, a service moved to the Berlin school because of the anticipated throng expected to turn out for the popular Miller. The service was held in Decatur’s vast auditorium, but a live feed broadcast was aired in the school’s “black box” room adjacent to the auditorium and in the media center because hundreds of people who couldn’t cram into the auditorium spilled into the school’s hallways and other areas.
Miller was perhaps best known in Snow Hill, where he taught and coached for two decades, but his legacy extends far beyond the rural town in the south end of the county. He was known in Berlin and Ocean City and across the entire Eastern Shore, where he played and coached sports at every level and at every age group.
Over the years, Miller gained a reputation for being fiercely competitive while maintaining high ideals and his integrity. He wanted to win as much or more than the next guy, but not at the expense of what was best for his young charges.
“He always wanted what was best for his students and his athletes,” said Davis. “As a coach and an athletic director, he wanted to make sure our teams had everything they needed.”
Passion was the word used most often to describe Miller this week, from his fervent rants and raves on the sidelines to his dedication to his immediate and extended families.
“Coach Miller was a man of passion, dedicated to his students and the entire Snow Hill community,” said Worcester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes. “He loved his school, his community and his family. He was a person of high energy who gave his talents to help others.”
That same passion carried over to Miller’s other duties as the president of the Bayside Athletic Conference, according to Davis.
“He was deeply concerned with the integrity at each of the schools,” he said. “The Bayside Conference is well respected around the state and Allen Miller was a big part of that.”
Andes said Miller was a larger-than-life character whose presence touched all of those with whom he came in contact.
“Coach Miller’s legacy will be the long-lasting impact that he had on everybody he came into contact with,” he said. “You could not be in the same room, or the same building even, with him without feeling his presence. He had a tremendous love for his students and his athletes and a kind heart.”
Despite the deep sense of loss, the week was not without some levity. Pocomoke High School’s athletic director and coach went out and bought a maroon shirt in tribute to his long-time rival and friend, which some joked likely gave him a rash. Davis retold the story of going to the University of Maryland with Snow Hill’s basketball teams for Final Fours and state championship games and how Miller had to fight to get his young son with him on the bench.
“They have the tightest security at the Comcast Center for who can be on the floor and who can be on the bench, etc.,” he said. “I was with him a couple of times and nobody was going to stop Allen from keeping A.J. next to him on the bench.”
Miller always started a game with his tie cinched tight and his shirt tail in, but slowly became unglued as the game wore on. Andes recalled Miller’s demonstrative coaching style and drew a comparison to how he lived his life.
“What I will always remember was his tie collection and that towel that was always over his shoulder while he coached,” he said. “I think he used that towel to release some of his energy, but I really think he needed it to keep from perspiring. He spent as much energy on the sideline as his players did on the court or on the field. He left it all out there, just as he did in life.”