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Sun Coach Curt Miller Aims for Honesty With Team and Family

Sun Coach Curt Miller Aims for Honesty With Team and Family


UNCASVILLE, Conn. — During the W.N.B.A. All-Star break last month, Curt Miller, the Connecticut Sun’s coach and general manager, went home to Bloomington, Ind., excited to be just a parent again.

For 72 hours, Miller and Brian Seymour, 23, one of the twin brothers for whom he has been a legal guardian for 18 years, were nearly inseparable.

“What was most enjoyable was being able to do dad things for him and feel good about it,” said Miller, 49, who was the W.N.B.A’s coach and executive of the year in 2017.

They cleaned the family cars, took them for oil changes, filled their gas tanks and renewed their registrations.

When Brian, a journalism major, was attending class at Indiana University during the day, Miller said he would spend “five or six hours pulling weeds, cleaning up the flower beds, trimming hedges — doing everything in the yard that had been neglected to make sure the neighbors didn’t hate us.” He added, “I even took our three dogs to get groomed.”

That Sunday, Brian took Miller back to the airport. In his third season with the Sun, Miller, believed to be the first openly gay male coach of a professional sports team in the United States, refocused on taking his team to the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

And he did. The Sun won nine of their last 10 games to earn a first-round bye. They will host a single-elimination, second-round game against the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday night.

But there was someone missing during Miller’s visit, someone whose anguish he always carries with him. Brian’s twin, Shawn, was not home. He was in an Indiana correctional facility, serving a 13-year sentence after a conviction for armed robbery in 2014.

Brian and Shawn Seymour were born on Christmas Day in 1994 to the sister of Jamie Broadwell, Miller’s former partner. Broadwell’s sister was addicted to drugs and eventually unable to care for them. So the family asked Miller and Broadwell to look after the boys. They did not hesitate.

But by the time they were high school sophomores, the twins were traveling different paths. Brian was an aspiring physicist and standout cross-country runner. Shawn was disinterested in academics and was hanging out with a disreputable crowd, egging houses and keying cars.

“He couldn’t have been more of an angel” as a child, Miller said of Shawn. “I don’t know what changed.”

The boys had been part of Miller’s coaching journey since he was an assistant at Syracuse in the 1990s.

The family had spent more than a decade in Ohio while Miller coached the women’s basketball team at Bowling Green State, where he was hired in 2001. His program won eight regular-season Mid-American Conference championships, five tournament titles and played in five N.C.A.A. tournaments. He set a program record for victories (258), winning at least 20 in nine straight seasons.

He was a five-time finalist for Division I coach of the year. Since 2005, only the Hall of Famers Geno Auriemma of Connecticut and Tara VanDerveer of Stanford share that distinction.

In 2012, Miller got a chance to coach in the Big Ten at Indiana. The team he inherited, which had won six games the year before, jumped from 11 wins to 21 and the W.N.I.T. quarterfinals in 2014.

But Miller suddenly resigned in July 2014, citing health concerns. He had worked endlessly since he was 22, when he was the nation’s youngest Division I women’s basketball assistant at Cleveland State.

Truth was, he had never been able to relax. During his time at Bowling Green, he often slept on mattresses in his office closet to spare his family of his constant wandering at home. Miller suffered a small stroke in a game against Eastern Michigan in January 2012 that sidelined him for three games.

“He’s not big in stature, but fiery on the bench,” said Paul Krebs, the former Bowling Green athletic director. “I remember calling him into my office in his first year and telling him, ‘Curt, we love you, but you need to control yourself a little more.’ ”

Shawn Seymour’s continued spiral, which got worse during his brief stay as a freshman at Indiana, exacerbated Miller’s stress. He thought the time off might help him better deal with both issues.

Then one morning, three months after resigning, Miller received a notification from the Indiana campus about a shooting the night before with a brief description of the suspected perpetrator.

“It’s uncanny when you have a son that starts to get into trouble and has developed an addiction,” Miller said. “The description was so close, I gave pause because he hadn’t been home the night before. I felt a pit in my stomach.”

Miller’s instinct was correct. Shawn Seymour, then 19, had been arrested after a series of armed robberies in Bloomington and Monroe County.

“Shawn didn’t need money,” Miller said. “Was it just arrogance, more for the thrill?”

When the police confronted Seymour, he pointed a gun at them. Shots were fired, one leaving a scar after grazing the top of Seymour’s head.

“A reminder of what could have been,” Miller said.

After Shawn Seymour was incarcerated, particularly during the months Miller was convalescing in Indiana and without a job, Miller communicated with him as often as possible, through emails and phone calls, reminding him to be accountable and responsible, trying to cheer him with inspirational song lyrics.

“I want him to know that I am thinking about him,” Miller said. “I can’t wait for him to have his second chance.”

Of course, Miller knew all about second chances. He had given himself one years before.

From the time he was in high school, Miller knew he was gay. His older brother and sister were too. But Miller tried to mask it by becoming a sprinter and a basketball player. He had girlfriends.

At what is now Baldwin Wallace University, Miller joined the athletic fraternity. “It was my safe haven,” he said. “I viewed myself as an athlete.”

But by the time he became an assistant coach at Syracuse in 1994, Miller, then 25, decided to change the narrative.

“I started to explore for the first time,” he said. “I remember driving to a gay bar and sitting in the parking lot watching people walk in. I was happy to know they looked a lot like me. They looked normal. I had the courage to go in.”

He met Broadwell, and they began to live together. But Miller was too hesitant to speak of his sexual orientation. He worried that if people knew he was gay, it might negatively impact his career.

“During recruiting wars, I wondered if my sexuality would scare families,” Miller said. “I felt I had to be closeted. I had to be quiet about who I was.”

Bowling Green offered Miller his first head coaching job in 2001 without knowing he was gay.

The first recruit Miller seriously pursued was from a Christian family, he said. During a visit, the father told Miller he had heard he lived with a man.

“I knew this was his way of asking me if I was gay,” Miller said. “I said I did, but I described Jamie as a fraternity brother instead of my partner.”

“I was disgusted with myself,” he added. “I pledged at that point I would never lie again about what was important in my life. I decided to be authentic and honest for the remainder of my career.”

And so he has. Broadwell and the twins were present at his introductory news conference at Indiana. Authentic and honest about his sexuality, his son and his desire to be one of the top coaches in women’s basketball, Miller tries to handle it as seamlessly as he can.

Miller and Broadwell split in 2015, before Miller returned to basketball as an assistant with the W.N.B.A.’s Los Angeles Sparks. On Dec. 5, 2015, on the recommendation of Sparks Coach Brian Agler, whose daughter, Taylor, played for Miller at Indiana, the Sun named him coach. He added the title of general manager in his first season.

Chris Sienko, the Connecticut general manager who hired Miller, said: “He told us he was a gay male during our first conversation. By making the effort to tell us, it just made us respect him more. He said: ‘This is who I am. I am not afraid or embarrassed by it.’ ”

By the time of Miller’s hiring in Connecticut, an article detailing the arduous path he took before admitting he was gay had been published by the website Outsports.com.

“As someone who is a member of that community, I thought it was brave of him” to acknowledge being gay, said Amber Cox, the Sun’s vice president. “You just don’t know how people are going to react. For years, there were no protections in place for job security. Society has advanced, although we are not yet where we need to be over all. For me, personally, it got to the point where you just can’t care. You want to live a life you can share with those around you.”

Now Miller is determined to use his multiple platforms to be an advocate for those who might benefit from his experiences.

“I missed out for decades on taking advantage to be a role model or inspiration, especially to a young male coach who might be struggling as I did, wondering if I could chase my dreams,” Miller said.

“I have always wanted to be known as the successful basketball coach that happens to be gay as opposed to the gay coach who people felt was a pretty good coach.”



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