Charlie Coles will watch his first Miami University men’s basketball game of the season Saturday when the RedHawks host Kent State.
That may sound strange for a man who was the face of the program for so many years, but Coles said “breaking away” was the right move for him.
“I’ve just kind of stayed away,” said the 71-year-old Coles, who retired last March after 16 seasons and 263 victories at the MU helm. “When you coach kids, you get to know them real well. You don’t want to just be hanging around. I know I don’t.”
The 1965 Miami graduate was asked to return to Millett Hall because the school plans to honor him at halftime of Saturday’s 3 p.m. game. He’ll be there.
“I appreciate the fact that they are honoring me,” Coles said. “Hopefully we’ll have a good time on Saturday.”
He keeps track of the RedHawks’ results, but hasn’t seen the squad play at all, in person or on television. Miami is 8-17 under John Cooper after posting a 9-21 record in Coles’ final season.
“They’ve had some tough ones,” Coles said. “They’re still a relatively young team getting to know a new coach. It should be OK if they show some patience in the players. It’s so hard to get good in a day. You’ve got to keep working at it.”
Oxford is still his home, and he’s moving at his own pace. Asked to describe what he’s been doing in retirement, Coles replied with a laugh, “Not a lot, not a lot. Just working with young kids and watching a few basketball games, not as many as I thought I would, and just kind of relaxing.”
The basketball part focuses on his granddaughter, Jazz Bennett. Coles has worked with the sixth-grader’s CYO team a bit and is helping with the creation of an AAU squad that she’ll play on.
Will he be the head coach of that team? “We don’t know yet,” Coles said. “It’s something that me and my daughter and son-in-law and a couple other parents from in town will be doing. We’re going to have all kinds of head guys.”
Basketball is a family thing for Coles these days, and that’s fine with him.
He loves the game. He loves his granddaughter. It’s a perfect mix. The college spotlight? He doesn’t need it anymore.
“Basketball is basketball,” Coles said. “I’ve been involved with it forever. We’re just trying to develop some young players. They know I enjoy working with them. We talk about improvement all the time. Let’s not worry about being All-Americans yet — let’s just improve. That’s what I’m telling them.”
He’s had numerous health issues through the years, but said he’s doing OK. He doesn’t expect his 71-year-old body to feel 21 again.
“So far, so good,” Coles said. “I’m trying to take care of my health. There’s always going to be something when you get to be my age. It’s not going to be smooth, that’s for sure. But I feel fairly good.”