Curt Miller has been the head coach of the Connecticut Sun since 2016, got his first head coaching job in 2001 and has been in the business for nearly 30 years. He has been gay since 1968.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers LGBTQ workers from job discrimination, a landmark decision forces the entire country to accept what 21 states had already confirmed.
“An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The decision came as the country is in the midst of widespread protests calling for social justice and reforms. The final straw that sent people to the streets was the police killing of George Floyd, but it has morphed into something much, much larger. While the Supreme Court decision wasn’t intentionally planned for the protests, the timing is unarguably apt.
The WNBA has been at the forefront of battling social issues for some time, and it hasn’t stopped at race. The league has hosted a number of LGBTQ figures who have used the platform to spread their stories and messages. One of the most unique, though, is Curt Miller.
There aren’t too many openly gay basketball coaches. Chris Burns, an assistant at Bryant University, became the first Division I men’s basketball coaches to come out in 2015, and most recently, 10-year assistant coach Matt Lynch came out in April. Stephanie White, who played and coached in the WNBA, namely a two-year stint at the helm of the Indiana Fever, has been the head women’s basketball coach at Vanderbilt since 2016 and has been openly gay for years.
Curt Miller has carried the mantle for gay coaches in the W since the Sun hired him five years ago, making him the first publicly gay man to coach a pro sports team in the world.
After he was hired, Miller spoke to the media about his sexuality and life story, offering an example in public media for boys like him.
“I’ve always had a side of me that wants to help youth and help people who are struggling with who they are,” Curt Miller told Outsports in 2015. “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 had been out for much longer, though. He had been telling other coaches, players, administrators, fans, boosters and many others who made up the women’s basketball community since 1996. Some writers had mentioned his sexual orientation in articles without his permission, too. But it took until 2015 for him to step forward and take hold of the public narrative.
Now five years later, Miller wishes he had spoken out sooner.
“I wasted a lot of years not being a mentor and not being a role model for that next struggling young person who wanted to chase a career in sports – be it a coach, be it a general manager, be it on the sidelines, or covering sports,” he said to Outsports in April. “Visibility is so important, and I realize that just by staying in that little old women’s basketball bubble, that there was not the visibility. One of the things that made it scary for me to be out was I didn’t see that gay male successful coach. So now, I hope I can be a trailblazer and people see me having success coaching on the sidelines for multiple decades.”
As the push for social change in this country and abroad continues and LGBTQ people fight for further recognition, Curt Miller and his story will stand as proof for young people like him that coaching, basketball and athletics in general are open to all.
Curt Miller Coaching Career
Miller got his coaching start as an assistant at Cleveland State in 1991, remaining on staff there until he jumped to Syracuse in 1994. He would serve as an assistant for Colorado State from 1998 to 2001 before accepting his first head coaching position at Bowling Green.
The coach stayed at Bowling Green for more than a decade, leading the Falcons to five NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16 run in 2007. When he took the program over, Bowling Green was coming off a 11-18 campaign and hadn’t experienced a winning season in three years. In three seasons, Curt Miller had the Falcons back in contention for the MAC with 21 wins and an 11-5 conference record, and in his fourth season, he had BGSU dancing for the first time in 11 years. From 2005 to 2012, Miller’s Falcons won the MAC East Division every year, compiled a 112-17 league record and won the MAC regular season title five times (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011).
Miller became the head coach at Indiana in 2012, and his time in Bloomington was short-lived. After only two seasons, he resigned for “personal health and family reasons.”
He has been in the WNBA since, taking an assistant position with the Los Angeles Sparks under Brian Agler for the 2015 season. After one campaign, the Sun hired him as their head coach.
With Connecticut, Curt Miller has experienced more success. After missing the playoffs in his inaugural season, Miller has had the Sun in the postseason each of the last three years, reaching the 2019 WNBA Finals before falling to the Washington Mystics in five games in the ultimate series. In 2017, Miller was named WNBA Coach of the Year for his work in turning the Sun around.
The 2020 season will be his fifth in charge in Connecticut.