By Reggie Miller,
NBA Hall of Fame, MTB Racer, CTS Contributing Editor
As I’m writing this blog, it’s conjuring up good and sometimes bad feelings about my athletic endeavors. Whether it’s throwing a no hitter in little league baseball, winning a high school state championship, winning a college NIT championship or losing in the NBA Finals, one thing that remained constant was having the great luck of being coached and mentored by some amazing human beings. Coaching and mentoring come in all forms, sizes and strategies. What works for and motivates me might be different for you. Everyone is unique. So, as you’re reading this, know I’m a bit different than your average Joe.
Good coaches are hard to find, but what constitutes a good coach in the first place? That all depends on who you ask. For me, a good coach is someone who can be honest with his or her athletes, because all athletes need to TRUST the message being delivered to them. I’ve played for so many great Hall of Fame basketball coaches in my lifetime: Dr. Jack Ramsey, Larry Bird, Larry Brown, and others. All of them had ONE thing in common: they never sugar coated their critique of my game, good or bad. During my professional basketball career, I was usually the best player on the team. At times that should come with some perks, and it did, but one thing I admired from my Hall of Fame coaches was that they coached me HARD, because if they were easy on me my teammates would know, and now you’re in a hierarchy system. The simple fact was, we were all out there trying to achieve the same goal: TO WIN.
Mentoring is a different form of coaching. It’s finding someone who you trust, can relate to, and who simply wants you to succeed. I’ve been lucky to have quite a few mentors in my life. While at UCLA during the mid 80s, the Showtime Lakers used to come up to Pauley Pavilion for pick-up games. Magic Johnson, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper were my heroes, they owned LA and here they were, right in front of me teaching me how to be a professional person. Yes, person! Be on time, come to the gym early, stay late and get extra shots, watch film, always look people in the eyes, never back down.
I hung on every word. They gave me confidence I could succeed. I had the talent, I had bravado, but they gave me that extra push to achieve greatness. I was fortunate to play with Byron Scott in Indiana; he changed the fortunes of the Pacers franchise forever because he gave us confidence as a team we could win. I asked Magic Johnson to stand with me as I went into the Hall of Fame, and every time I see Michael Cooper at Lakers games all I can do is just hug him and say THANK YOU. Mentors’ words last forever…
So, you’re probably thinking, “Reggie, how does this relate to cycling?” Well my friends, it’s going on about 3 years now that I stepped foot into the CTS training facility for my VO2max testing. That test, and meeting with Chris Carmichael, Jason Siegle and the coaching staff changed everything for me in terms of my cycling development. Jason has been my primary coach, setting the training weekly plan, race preparation and dietary plan. Since I’m somewhat new to the cycling world, I’m still learning what Jason’s weekly training plan numbers mean, so for now I just try my best to hit them. Now, there are times Jason and I disagree with his expectations for me; he believes I’m much better than I think I am (smile), but I understand that’s just being a good coach, motivating and finding a way to get his athlete to perform at a higher level.
It’s also been good for me to have mentors in the cycling world to help with my ongoing questions and development. As many of you know, Endurance Champ Sonya Looney was my first unofficial coach, and over the years she has transitioned into my number one mentor and confidant. It’s always good to bounce different ideas off her, especially since she’s gone to so many dark places during her races and knows how to navigate that world.
Former XC racer Ryan Steers is another person I lean on. What’s great about Ryan is that he and I are very close in height and he knows the challenges taller riders face in the world of cycling. Plus, he’s shown me you can’t make excuses because of your 6’7” height; you can be just as fast as a rider who’s 5’7”.
Finally, there’s the super talented triathlete Isabel King, who’s on Team BOOMBABY. Because I get to ride and train with her the most, she’s shown me that’s there’s no limit to how far and long we can push the body. She and Sonya are masters at navigating the dark side of longer rides.
In conclusion, if you’re surrounded by good coaches and mentors in your sporting endeavors, cherish that, because I’ve also seen bad coaches and terrible influencers that have derailed great athletes. Surround yourself with people you TRUST, ask family members their opinions about those people, do your due diligence and background checks. These choices are important because, as athletes, we will always remember the motivating words from a great coach or mentor, whether it was in little league, high school, college, or after. They have an impact on us. And as you move forward on your own athletic journey, always remember to pay it forward. When the next generation comes to you for advice, share your knowledge and inspire them to always be better.
About Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 after his 18-year pro basketball career with the Indiana Pacers. One of the best shooters in the game, Miller won a Gold Medal as member of Team USA at the 1996 Olympic Games and was a 5-time NBA All-Star. Following his retirement from professional basketball, Miller became a highly sought-after analyst with TNT and took up competitive mountain biking. In 2020 he was named to the USA Cycling Board of Directors. He currently works with CTS Coach Jason Siegle and rides his road, gravel, and mountain bikes for training.