Greg Gavin was the head football coach at West Valley when the Eagles’ head wrestling coach, Chuck Miller, tried to get him to spar with him at practice.
“He was always trying to get me in there on the mat with him,” Gavin said. “I wasn’t the smartest guy but I wasn’t about to do that. A lot of our football kids wrestled and I’d go in there and watch.”
Miller coached with Gavin during the first of five years in Millwood.
“He was old school but I mean it in a positive way,” Gavin said. “He was tough. His kids demonstrated that. He wrestled every day with his kids.”
Miller passed away last weekend in Banning, California. He was 77. He’s survived by his wife, Gail; two sons, Myke and Mark; and daughter Laurie.
He was part of wrestling’s infancy in the Inland Northwest. He coached WV to a state championship in 1972. It was the first state title by a Spokane-area school.
Miller got his start in teaching and coaching at West Valley. He left teaching and coaching for a stint in private business before returning to build a powerhouse at East Valley.
All told, Miller taught and coached 30 years – 21 at WV, from 1961-1982, and nine at EV, 1985-94 – before retiring in 1994.
Miller attended Washington State University where he played football and boxed.
He was inducted into the Washington chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006. He had 13 state champions among 71 state qualifiers. He is in the Washington Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame.
Miller coached his sons at EV. Myke was a state runner-up at heavyweight in 1977 and a state champ in 1978.
Another son, Mark, served as head wrestling coach at Shadle Park. He’s now the Highlanders’ head boys track coach.
“He had the greatest sense of humor. He was quick to laugh,” Gavin said. “Every time he needed to go home he’d say ‘I’ve got to go home and see the peach’. That’s what he’d call his wife.”
The family hopes to have a memorial service at WV at some point.
“He was a helluva guy,” Gavin said. “He was the last of a breed of guys who could be tough as nails and in the next minute be a gentleman. He never mistreated anybody. He had great discipline and could demand it because it was earned. If every teacher and coach were like him, we’d be better off.”