Curt Miller

Curt Miller is still the only one. The Los Angeles Sparks coach became the first publicly out gay man to be head coach of a major North American sports team when the Connecticut Sun hired him in 2015. For most of that time, Miller didn’t want to be known as the “gay coach.”

But nearly a decade later, his calculus has changed. Now, Miller says he views serving as a role model as one of the most important parts of his job, right up there with wins and losses.

He spoke about the subject earlier this week, ahead of the Sparks’ Pride Night.

“It’s really important to me to continue to provide visibility and representation to the coaches behind me,” he told reporters. “I didn’t have a role model. I didn’t have someone I could call and reach out to to navigate [being] a gay male in sports. There are so many gay young men in basketball, both men’s and women’s, including the NBA and G-League, who drop out of chasing their dreams, because there’s not a lot of visibility and representation besides myself.”

Miller was 23 years old when he took his first job coaching with Cleveland State, and spent the next 10 years as an assistant at the D1 level. When Bowling Green hired him as its head coach in 2001, he was ready for the gig. The Falcons compiled an impressive 258–92 record during his 11 seasons on the job, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2006.

Miller left Bowling Green in 2012 for a marquee job at Indiana, before leaving for the pro ranks. Though Miller was out to friends and family for years—he introduced his then-partner and two sons at his first press conference as head women’s basketball coach at Indiana University—he resisted doing a formal story until the made the jump to the WNBA in 2015.

He now says he regrets it.

“I wasted a lot of years not being a mentor and not being a role model for that next struggling young person who wanted to chase a career in sports—be it a coach, be it a general manager, be it on the sidelines, or covering sports,” he told me in a 2020 interview.

He continued, “Visibility is so important, and I realize that just by staying in that little old women’s basketball bubble, that there was not the visibility. One of the things that made it scary for me to be out was I didn’t see that gay male successful coach. So now, I hope I can be a trailblazer and people see me having success coaching on the sidelines for multiple decades.”

Miller has enjoyed a lot of success since publicly coming out, leading the Sun to six straight playoff appearances before departing for Los Angeles in 2023. Connecticut was a powerhouse during Miller’s tenure, with two WNBA Finals appearances in four seasons.

As a head coach in the WNBA, Miller has coached multiple out LGBTQ+ players. Two of the best players on the Sun, DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas, are engaged to be married.

Arguably the most progressive major U.S. pro sports league, there’s a bevy of out superstars in the WNBA, including some of the greatest players of all-time (Sue Bird, Elena Delle Donne, Candace Parker, Sheryl Swoopes, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi and Brittany Griner… just to name a few)!

But the same can’t be said for the NBA. There’s been only out gay active NBA player in history, Jason Collins, and only six out gay players in pro basketball history.

For coaches, the number is even smaller. Matt Lynch is the only out gay male coach in U.S. men’s basketball, college or pro, and Vanderbilt assistant Kevin DeMille is the only out coach in women’s college basketball.

On Monday, Miller acknowledged he’s seen many gay coaches abandon their dreams.

“I’m going to try and keep carrying that banner until the decision makers open the door more, and advancement is possible for young gay men that are in the sport of basketball,” he said. “We are losing too many, because they don’t see advancement opportunities, and they’ve only seen me for 22 years. I am hellbent on plugging away, so those barriers are broken down for others.”

For Miller, part of the fight is personal. He revealed he recently dated a pro athlete, who stayed in the closet out of fear. “Knowing what they still worry about in a pro men’s locker room and just wanting to be one of the guys, and watching them potentially struggle is really difficult for me,” he said.

As a coach for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Summer Games, Miller’s platform should only grow over the coming months. We know he’s going to make the most of it.

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