It’s a new day for the Langston University Lady Lions, and there’s a new sheriff in town. Cheryl Miller is the new Head Coach for Langston’s NAIA women’s basketball team. What does this mean for the only historically Black institution of higher learning in the great red state of Oklahoma? It means the “home on the hill,” out in the middle of nowhere, rich with 117 years of history, educating future leaders for service, is making national headlines for all the right reasons. Culturocity got the opportunity to sit down with several of the Lady Lions, and they held nothing back as they shared their thoughts on the new coach and the direction the Langston University athletics department is headed.
Alexandria “Alex” Adekunle, 6 foot tall starting center for the Lady Lions, exclaimed, “We need this. LU needed this. She’s (Miller) not just a coach, she’s a mentor. LU is a diamond in the rough.”
President Dr. Kent Smith, Jr. officially dubbed Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller a member of the Langston Pride during a morning press conference at the Langston University main campus. Dr. Smith introduced Cheryl Miller to the world as the new Head Coach of the Lady Lion’s basketball team. Miller captivated the student body, alumni, members of the community and the media as she delivered a speech filled with such passion and energy that if one didn’t know any better, one would have thought that she was a graduate of Langston University. The crowd bursted at the seams with excitement as Miller all but promised to bring home a championship title. “She gave a riveting speech” exclaimed senior Agriculture major Lisa Montgomery.
Miller previously served as the Head Coach and General Manager of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. Miller has also worked as a sportscaster and analyst for TNT and TBS. She is the sister of retired NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, and she affectionately let everyone know that it should be stated for the record that she can run circles around Reggie on the court, any day, any time. With Cheryl Miller’s list of accolades, titles and record breaking averages, it is an undisputed fact that she is a heavyweight in this ring. The expectation is high as she steps into her role as Head Coach, and there is no doubt that she will deliver. Heisman trophy winner Mike Garrett is the current athletic director at Langston University, and Miller played for the USC Trojans during Garrett’s tenure as AD there. Because of her already established professional relationship with Garrett, she will be a welcome and easy fit into the Langston University Athletics department.
When I asked Miller herself, “Why Langston?” she responded very candidly. “When I made the decision to return to women’s basketball, I had difficulty getting interviews. It was a very humbling experience. I called Garrett and we knew it would be a perfect fit. He was praying and Jesus came knocking,” said Miller. An emotional Mike Garrett became teary eyed as he recalled his conversation with Miller when she agreed to come to Oklahoma. Garrett said that he had prayed and prayed and when Miller finally called to say she was ready, he was in utter disbelief.
“We all know the greatness the women’s basketball team stands to gain from having you as their head coach, but what can the Langston University student body as a whole expect from Cheryl Miller?” I asked Miller.
“I am a firm believer as a coach that I must support all athletics, not just basketball. For the Langston University student body, I have an open door policy. My office is always open.”
Miller shared her plans to have off-season conditioning regimes for each individual player. “We will go through the tape and break down assets and what needs work. Individually they are not bad, but collectively they need work. The offense and defense needs discipline and conditioning. They know they’re in for it, that’s why they’re so quiet.”
Amber “AK” Kinlaw, senior starting point guard for the Lady Lions, said “we couldn’t move forward because we weren’t in shape. I’m excited and I’m ready to work. She is what we need. She’s a legend.”
Lynnette Holmes, starting forward, hailing from New Orleans, Louisiana, is the newest superstar on the Lady Lions roster. She dropped her career high of 50 points in one game during this season and has consistently gone hard in the paint, averaging nearly 30 points a game. Holmes said, “I transferred from the University of Arizona and Langston has been a better fit for me. Everyone has been very supportive and it was like I was supposed to be here. We (the team) need discipline and I know Cheryl Miller will give us the tools we need to be better.”
When Langston University’s charismatic and well spoken president Dr. Smith was asked his thoughts, his not-so-subtle passion for Langston was clearly evident. “This is an exciting day for Langston University and monumental in terms of college athletics,” he exclaimed.
As the Langston University Lady Lion’s ascend to greatness, they can rest assured that they are in good hands. The charming and quick witted Coach Miller can crack the whip just as fluidly as she can crack a joke. It’s going to be a long hard road filled with challenges, but with the skills and ability of this team paired with the expertise and guidance of Cheryl Miller, it’s safe to assume great things are ahead. These ladies will be conditioned into their best selves, on and off the court by a living legend. And everyone knows, you don’t mess with a lioness and her cubs.