PALO ALTO — The football players at Gunn High will meet their new head coach on Tuesday.
“The hard work begins tomorrow,” said Jason Miller, whose hiring was announced Monday afternoon. “I will meet the kids and we’ll schedule workouts at 6 o’clock in the morning and we’ll see who shows up.”
The 39-year-old special ed teach at Jordan Middle School applied for vacant positions at crosstown rivals in Palo Alto and was brought back for second interviews at both places.
Miller is a transplant from Los Angeles County who moved to the Peninsula over the summer for a change of scenery after multiple stints working at inner-city schools, including Inglewood High and Dominguez High in Compton.
“One of the reasons I ended up moving around a little bit is because when I kind of got my credential in teaching is right when the budget axe fell in the state of California,” Miller said. “So, essentially if you just started teaching, you were also the first one laid off.”
Miller is a graduate of Leuzinger High in Lawndale, where he was a self-described “average” two-way lineman.
“I really worked hard to get on the field,” he said.
It was at his alma mater that his coaching career began in 1997.
“I learned under the foot of one of the winningest coaches in the history of the state and the country with over 300 wins — Don Markham,” Miller said. “He invented the double-wing offense and essentially he taught me philosophies anywhere from how to train a team, what offseason program to run, how to strength train, how to speed train, how to implement offense, how to run practice, how to run a team.
“I just listened to everything he had to say and really took to it.”
At every stop along the way as offensive coordinator, quick turnarounds often followed.
That continued during his initial turn as head coach in 2013 at Verbum Dei High in Los Angeles, where the football team went from 1-9 the previous season to a 7-4 record that included a 2,000-yard rusher with 24 touchdowns.
During his first year at Compton Dominguez, the football team produced three 1,000-yard rushers.
Miller trusts that the double-wing offense — “It’s a lineman-friendly system,” he said — can be effective at Gunn, which has struggled in recent times to recruit students onto the football team.
“I know how to coach teams with low numbers and getting them all to buy into the process and win,” Miller said.
How many wins, exactly?
That’s yet to be determined, but after five straight losing seasons — 1-9, 1-9, 0-10, 2-8, 3-7 — it’s time to try something new at Gunn.
“I really don’t even like to talk about wins and losses with the kids,” Miller said. “It really comes from the process, and the wins are kind of a byproduct of them doing the right things. We’ll work hard on strength and speed training, and we’ll work hard on implementing our system and have the kids playing as a team, playing disciplined football, and that takes us a long way that first year.”