Zach Miller’s departure leaves a void

Photo: University of Denver Magazine

After hearing the report that star midfielder Zach Miller has left the DU men’s lacrosse program, I came across this highlight tape (below – ignore the music) of Miller and was reminded of his extraordinary stick handling, shot accuracy, passing, and more importantly, his ability to make everyone other Pioneer on the field better.

What may have been missed in this story is the impact, personally, on Coach Bill Tierney. Aside from just winning games, Miller’s expected graduation in  2017 was called, “the best story of my career” by Tierney who took a personal stake in Miller’s progress to make sure that he graduated from the University of Denver.

Said Tierney to the Denver Post, “When you get to my stage in the coaching journey, you realize those wins are really important to the young men who play the game, and I coach them as hard as I did 20 years ago, but you also start to have some perspective about the meaning of this game. I’ve never had a Native American play for me. Zach Miller brings such meaning to the game, it makes you think. He’s using lacrosse to get his education, to help his family, to help his reservation and to help his people. If his goals are so big, then my goals have to match his ambition.”

Tierney’s disappointment was palpable yesterday.

Of course, from a creativity and skills perspective, it will be a challenge to replace Miller. You just can’t replace a guy like him…he was a one-of-a-kind player.

As for fans, if Miller does not come back (he will still retain one more year of eligibility, technically), this will go down as one of the biggest early departures in DU athletics history. The basketball transfer of Royce O’Neal to Baylor likely kept Denver from reaching their first-ever NCAA Tournament. But with Miller’s departure, Denver’s bid for a second national title in three years just got much more difficult.

More importantly, Zach Miller will lose more than just another season of lacrosse. He will have stopped three-quarters of the way to the academic finish line for his undergraduate degree.

Sad news all around in this writer’s view.