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By DANNY P. SMITH
Firm but fair.
That's how the members of the 2011 Mississippi State softball team describe head coach Jay Miller.
Miller's coaching style has worked over the years and he has the wins to show for his efforts.
With the next victory for the Bulldogs, Miller will reach his 1,000th career coaching win. He got No. 999 with Sunday's 9-3 decision over the Ole Miss Rebels.
The MSU players agree that Miller has done a good job of pushing the team this season.
"When we've had tough losses, he's done a good job of helping us to bounce back and come back afterwards," freshman catcher Sam Lenahan said. "He's pretty laid back, but when he sees something he's not happy with, he'll let us know."
Miller doesn't have to say anything about his coaching capability, the long list of accomplishments speaks for itself.
He has developed a reputation on the national and international scene.
Even back to his days as the head coach at Missouri from 1987-2002, Miller spent time as the pitching coach for Netherlands Antilles at Pan Am Games in 1987 and World Championships in 1990. He was a member of the USA Softball National Team Selection Committee from 1992-96.
Miller continued to be involved with USA National Team softball once he became the head coach at Mississippi State in 2003.
Over the last three years, he has led the gold medal efforts at the USA Junior World Championships (2007) and the USA National Team at the Canada Cup (2009), the World Cup of Softball (2009 and 2010), the Japan Cup (2009 and 2010), and the ISF World Championship (2010).
Miller considers himself fortunate to be associated with USA Softball and knows he has been helped by working and exchanging ideas with some of the best coaches in the United States and the World.
When it comes to reaching personal milestones, Miller just shrugs it off as something that happens to a coach when he's been involved with a sport for a number of years.
"It means I'm getting old and that's about all it means," said Miller, who turns 55 on May 25. "If you are around long enough you are going to pick up some things like that."
The Bulldogs would like to reward their coach with his 1,000th victory very soon. It can happen tonight (6:30 p.m.) if MSU can defeat Southern Mississippi at Madison's Liberty Park.
"If we can get his 1,000th win for him, it would be great and congrats to him," Lenahan said.
Over the last 13 years, Miller has produced 48 all-conference players and 11 which became All-Americans.
Before her career with the Bulldogs was complete last season, Chelsea Bramlett had achieved four-straight NFCA first-team All-American honors.
Miller credits the players, past and present, for helping him be successful.
"It's a tribute to the kids we've had and the hard work they've put in," Miller said. "That's what it's all about. They take advantage of that. We are real fortunate to be here at Mississippi State and with such a great athletic department. It's a great place to be."
Miller is MSU's all-time winningest softball coach and has led the Bulldogs to six NCAA Regionals with the best season coming in 2008 with a final record of 41-22.
"It's a great school and he's doing a great job of coaching," MSU sophomore pitcher Kylie Vry said. "I'm glad we're coming together and playing as a team. It's great for him and the school."
The Bulldogs (19-18 overall, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) follow up the game in Madison with a three-game set against the Auburn Tigers for Super Bulldog Weekend.
Miller has been impressed with what Auburn has been able to do and knows it won't be an easy series.
"This is the best year they've had in a long time and they'll be a tough opponent for us," Miller said.