The family business: Zach and Aly Miller have followed dad Scott into coaching

Lots of kids look forward to holiday breaks to sleep in, watch football, play video games, travel, build a snow man.

Not the Miller kids. They were different.

“You know you love the game when the reason we’re excited for holiday breaks wasn’t for time off school but that it meant it was a week full of basketball games,” Aly Miller said.

Aly and her brother, Zach, 5 years older, joined their mom, Lisa, in her prime spot in the bleachers a row or three behind the bench as their dad, Scott Miller, coached the boys basketball teams first at Plano and then for 21 seasons at Glenbard East.

In a tribute to osmosis, love of the game, and strong admiration for their father’s dedication and relationships with his players, both Alyssa, or Aly, and Zach Miller now lead their own programs.

“We got to go to games and sit right behind his bench and see how much he loved it,” Aly Miller said. “And that kind of inspired us to find our own passions. It just happened to be the same passion, which is pretty cool.”

  Geneva’s Leah Palmer tries to get past Naperville North’s Kendall Johnson as Naperville North coach Aly Miller directs her team in a girls basketball game in Naperville on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. John Starks/

The star guard on his father’s 2010-11 Glenbard East team that finished third in Class 4A, Zach coaches Downers Grove South’s boys, who have progressively improved each of his three seasons.

Scott joins him on the bench as an assistant, so cohesive they can communicate through body language or a tug of the pants. Father and son don’t agree on everything, but their mutual respect is absolute.

Aly, whose own basketball career at Glenbard South ended with a knee injury, is in her first season leading the Naperville North girls basketball team, her third year in the program. She and Zach both teach special education.

“It was obviously good memories for the kids,” Scott Miller said. “If they’re doing it, they must have enjoyed it. It’s one of the things you think back on in your life as parents — you think, ‘Well, we must have done something right.’”

Lisa Miller now sits in the bleachers behind her children.

  The coaching Miller family includes Zach, left, the head coach at Downers Grove South, Aly, third from left, is the head girls basketball coach at Naperville North, Lisa, who provides support, and Scott, back, is the retired Glenbard East boys basketball head coach. Rounding out the group are Bash, second from left, and Bianca, holding Anabelle. Joe Lewnard/

“My mom is the biggest cheerleader and usually one of the loudest voices in the gym, and it’s been that way as long as I remember,” Zach Miller said.

Through their parents, Zach and Aly saw how a partnership works. Fully bought in to Team Miller, Lisa attended hundreds of her husband’s basketball games, hosted team dinners and holiday parties.

“I think the dedication on both their ends is something that will forever stick with me,” Aly Miller said.

As she and Zach began their own journeys in basketball, baseball and softball, their parents attended every game they possibly could, through Zach’s basketball games with Northern Illinois and Hillsdale College. It’s a grind, all the driving and scheduling that frustrate parents while they’re in it, but in hindsight wouldn’t trade for anything.

“We just made it work,” said Lisa Miller, speaking for car-pooling parents everywhere.

Where it began

Scott Miller compiled a 360-318 record in 24 seasons ending in 2020, when he was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

  Scott Miller of Wheaton has retired from coaching boys basketball at Glenbard East, but his son Zach is the head boys basketball coach at Downers Grove South and his daughter Aly is the head girls basketball coach at Naperville North. Joe Lewnard/

His father coached him in baseball until Scott reached Yorkville High School.

His first head coaching job came at Plano in 1996-97, a team that went 2-22. Two seasons later the Reapers finished fourth in Class A with a 23-10 record, Plano’s highest win total at the time and still tied at No. 1.

(Batavia girls coach Kevin Jensen played on that fourth-place Plano team. He also lived next door to the Millers. Jensen remembers the Millers bringing Aly home from the hospital as a baby and Zach “being in diapers at basketball camps.”)

Scott Miller retired as Glenbard East’s department chair for physical education, health and driver’s education, as well as the boys basketball program’s wins leader. The Rams’ 28 wins in the landmark 2010-11 season also are a program record.

“In 30-some years of coaching and teaching, I loved every minute of it,” he said.

“So I wanted to impart that to (Zach and Aly) that I enjoy going to work, I enjoy doing what I did. Yeah, there are some ups and downs, but there’s a lot more ups than there are downs.”

He admitted winning certainly is more fun than losing, but records are not what drew the kids into coaching.

Zach Miller said his father’s goal was to help develop players into “the best version of themselves.” He saw former players return for the big game, invite Scott to their weddings, call him just to talk.

“He was genuine,” Zach said.

“He was the same guy Monday through Sunday — maybe a little hot under the collar on Friday nights, but he was always truthful, he was honest, and I think that helps foster relationships he still has to this day,” he said.

“That’s one of the things I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to do, build relationships with these kids. Because at the end of the day the ball stops bouncing, but you want to have those relationships where they want to come back,” Zach said.

Glenbard East head coach Scott Miller cuts the rest of the net after his team beat East Aurora in boys basketball sectional finals Friday in Aurora. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

“I think the thing I’m most proud of, is so far they’re both very player-oriented, the relationship piece. That’s most important thing,” Scott Miller said.

“We said, ‘You’re never going to make a million,’” Lisa Miller said, “’but you are going to make a difference and that’s what you need to focus on.’ And I think they both have really done that.”

Keeping an eye on dueling schedules, the family bounces back and forth between the gyms at Naperville North and Downers Grove South. They’re joined by Zach’s wife, Bianca, and their 3-year-old son, Sebastian — or, naturally, “Bash.”

Six-month-old Belle is too young just yet, but odds favor her joining the family business. Bash already seems interested.

“I come home from practice and he’s got a ball in his hands,” Zach Miller said.

The cycle continues.

“It’s something that we wouldn’t have any other way,” Aly Miller said. “It’s all we’ve ever known and obviously we love (Scott) enough to get into it for the rest of our lives ourselves. It’s such a huge impact on our life and it’s definitely more than just a game for us.”

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