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After 22 years, Miller leaves winning legacy

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Anni Miller recently stepped down as the head coach of the Lakeridge girls tennis team. During her 22 years as the head coach, Miller’s teams won three state championships and 17 league titles. Miller also was named Oregon’s top tennis coach five times. She also won six national coaching honors.

Few opponents ever wanted to play one of Anni Miller's Lakeridge girls tennis teams.

Miller's teams always had so much depth that they were virtually unbeatable in a dual match. They were even hard to beat at the state level, where the Pacers won three team titles, five doubles titles and two singles crowns.

During her 22 years as the Lakeridge head coach, Miller's players won approximately 2,200 matches and lost only 100. But there won't be any more victories for Miller, who recently announced that she is leaving her post with the Pacers.

'I'm throwing in the proverbial towel,' said Miller, who admittedly agonized over her decision.

Miller decided to leave Lakeridge in order to spend more time with her ailing 99-year-old mother, Gretchen Bennett. Miller also would like to spend more time with her grandson, who was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago.

'Now it's time to give that time to my family,' Miller said.

Miller was one of the first coaches in the Portland area to institute a no-cut policy for players who turned out for her team. As a result, Miller's teams were not only strong but deep as well. Now, a large number of teams, in virtually every sport, have followed Miller's lead in that regard.

'One of the nicest compliments you can get is when people copy or mimic you,' the coach said.

Miller also tried to make the game of tennis fun for her players.

'We always had a blast,' she said. 'But we won a lot and that made it fun.'

Miller's teams first started making their presence felt at state in 1989, when Anne Pamplin and Dabney Miller, the coach's daughter, made it to the state semifinals in doubles.

'That was the beginning of a long run,' the coach said. From there, things just sort of snowballed.

'Sometimes greatness just produces greatness,' said Miller, whose Lakeridge teams won 17 league titles.

Miller had a knack for convincing good athletes in other sports to turn out for tennis. Several of those girls wound up scoring points at the state tournament.

With the success of her teams, Miller was named Oregon's coach of the year five times. The U.S. Professional Tennis Assocation also named her the national coach of the year five times. In addition, Miller was named the country's top coach by National Federation of High School Coaches.

'That was a huge feather in my cap,' Miller said.

The coach still plans to watch an occasional Lakeridge match, because 'I pretty much bleed Columbia blue and yellow,' she said. But she might wait until the weather warms up before heading up the hill.

'The only thing I won't miss will be freezing my fanny off during the early spring,' she said.

Miller believes she was the longest-serving high school tennis coach in Oregon, and a lot of people thought she would keep that streak going for a while longer. When she told Lakeridge athletic director Mike Coulson in late January that she was stepping down, 'he was just blown out of the water,' Miller said.

Miller's shoes will certainly be hard to fill.

'Hopefully I've left a legacy up there that someone else will be able to build on,' the coach said.

Miller said she will retain her job as the tennis director at the Lake Oswego Tennis Center. And she plans to use some of her spare time campaigning for the construction of more public tennis courts in Lake Oswego.

'That would be a real plus for the city of Lake Oswego,' she said.