By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Longtime Marlborough resident and beloved Metrowest basketball referee Bill Miller earned posthumous recognition Feb. 18 at the latest running of an event he helped found – the Officials vs. Cancer Three-point Shootout.
Miller spent 60 years playing, coaching and officiating the game of basketball. He spent the last 40 of those years as a referee, eventually rising to the rank of president of the Western Middlesex Board of the Nobscot Valley International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Board (IAABO). He died of cancer in March.
In the final years of his life, he was part of a group of officials who first organized a winter basketball tournament at the Joseph P. Keefe Regional Technical School in Framingham. Roughly five years later, having moved the tournament to Hopkinton and rebranded it as a three-point shootout, Miller’s former colleagues dedicated their 2017 shootout to him.
“It means a lot that the board felt that it would be nice to dedicate this particular event to him,” said Bill’s son, Mike Miller. “He was a special guy to a lot of people not only amongst the basketball community but just all around.”
Bill Miller helped found the Marlborough Youth Basketball Association in the 1970s. He officiated everything from recreational games to high school events. He was honored as a life member of the IAABO in 2008 and, according to his obituary, continued training new officials “right up until his death.”
“What he really enjoyed was helping the younger guys that were coming in,” Mike Miller said. “[He loved] getting them introduced to a game that he enjoys so much and that had given him so much success. He wanted to give his skills to them so that they could enjoy that success.”
The recent shootout in his honor included players in a middle school and high school division and relied on officials from the Metrowest region to volunteer to run it. Drawing more than 130 students, the event raised money for the American Cancer Society.
That money will now fund cancer research as well as cancer care programs ranging from free lodging in Boston for patients to programs to drive patients from their homes to appointments.
The event itself also offered shooters the opportunity to play in honor of someone in their life who had been affected by cancer. All morning long, officials manning the public address system called out the names of the cancer patients, survivors and victims named by each shooter.
“It’s good to have the younger kids involved because they get to feel a sense of giving back as well,” Mike Miller said. “It’s great that they have the opportunity to be recognized for that and shoot in honor of somebody.”
On Feb. 18, many of the officials, however, were working in honor of their friend – Miller. Bob Eglitis, chair of the tournament’s organizing committee, is one of these friends, having been trained by Miller during his early days as an official.
He knew Miller for 12 years and attributes much of his officiating knowledge to lessons from his mentor.
“He taught me a lot,” Eglitis said. “He helped me build my confidence as an official. He was a great guy.”
The shootout honored Miller as well as each friend or family member for whom its participants shot. It did it all while raising money to fight the very disease that killed Miller and so many others.
“This is more than a three-point contest,” Eglitis said. “It means something to the American Cancer Society and it means a lot to the participants and their families.”