This is the ninth in a series of Saturday
stories profiling the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012.
By Nick Veronica
news sports reporter
When Todd Miller picked up tennis at age 7, it was just a game. In high school, it turned into a passion. Shortly after college, it became a career, and ever since tennis has been Miller’s life.
He goes to work every day at the tennis club he owns, coaches players from families in the second and third generation of his tutelage, and does it all side-by-side with the woman he met more than 35 years ago on a tennis court.
Miller stares out into the distance while rattling off his life story, which to any passerby could seem like a man counting his blessings. A shy smile creeps across his face when he tries to put into words how everything has managed to fall into place.
He met his wife, Debbie, on Sweet Home’s tennis team after she convinced the high school she was good enough to play with the boys. He was offered a job as the head pro and executive director at Amherst Hills Tennis Club in Williamsville. Miller was a 20-year-old student at the University at Buffalo. When he left to run an academy in Florida a few years later, club owner Marvin Krasner refused to let him resign and wouldn’t give his job away, insisting Miller would eventually come back for it, which he did.
Miller’s playing career quickly morphed into an even more successful coaching career, and it’s his accomplishments from the sideline rather than the baseline that punched Miller’s ticket into the 2012 class of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
“If I die tomorrow, I’ve had the greatest life,” Miller said. “Everything has worked out. This has been my dream. Everything fell in place. I don’t think I’d want to trade places with anyone else. I think I’ve done everything I wanted to do, every day.”
Four players whom Miller coached became national champions and two went on to be All-Americans in the NCAA’s top division. Two players he coached in Florida won junior Wimbledon titles and he says at least 20 pros he had on staff at Miller Tennis now either coach college teams or are head pros at their own clubs.
The Professional Tennis Registry ranked Miller Tennis as the highest credentialed pro staff of any club or academy in the world in 2009, something Miller takes great pride in.
“It’s unheard of,” Miller said in regard to the talent he has on Sheridan Drive. “Even the biggest clubs, even the Midtown club in Chicago, which is the biggest indoor club in the world, don’t have that. When we stacked up against them it was kind of nice.”
Miller is sort of the club’s ringer for that award. In 2006 he became just the 25th coach in the world to be named a Master Professional by the PTR.
Miller digs out an overstuffed portfolio in his office. Put together when he was in the running for Master Pro status, it contains an impressive compilation of reference letters, photographs and press clippings from seemingly every tennis player and coach he’s ever shared a passing glance with. They’ll all vouch for his coaching abilities.
“Coaching just felt so natural. I just knew that this was what I wanted to do,” Miller said. “I never stopped learning. I stole from the best pros in the world and I never stopped developing friendships with coaches all over the world.
“I try to instill the same work ethic in my students. You want them to work and to learn and not be complacent and I prided myself through the years on always doing that.”
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s 22nd annual induction dinner will be held Oct. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. Tickets are sold out. To purchase auxiliary seating, call Tina Pastwick at 693-3807.