After launching the youth lacrosse program and leading the Durango High School boys lacrosse team for more than a decade, coach John Robinette hung up his whistle after the end of last season. During the span, he helped the Demons reach the Colorado High School Activities Association state playoffs four times and helped grow the sport tremendously in the Four Corners.
This spring, Luke Miller, 31, will step in as the new DHS head lacrosse coach. Miller was hired over the holiday break.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to the game and have enjoyed lacrosse throughout my entire life,” Miller said. “I want to be able to have the kids who play it enjoy it, and I hope it becomes something that they do long term. I have a huge amount of respect for everything that John Robinette did to help get the team to where we are today, but I am excited to lead this program into a new chapter.”
Miller has been on the coaching staff the last two seasons as an assistant coach, and it will be his first season as a full-time high school head coach. He played at the club level in college at Colorado State and played two seasons of semi-professional indoor lacrosse for the Colorado Sabertooths and the Parker Rangers, and he won two national championships.
When considering applicants, of which there was only one other, Durango School District 9-R athletic director Ryan Knorr was immediately impressed with Miller’s knowledge of the program and where it needs to go in order to return to the state playoffs for the first time since 2016.
“His ability to have a pulse on where they were last year and where they need to go stood out,” Knorr said. “He brings a ton of experience when it comes to coaching at the high school level, and the impression the kids who were on the committee got from him was substantial. We’re excited for him to start working with the student-athletes, have him stick around for awhile and put his own stamp on the lacrosse program.”
Knorr said he brought in sophomore and junior student-athletes on the team, parents, boosters and staff for the interview process, and once the room was satisfied, he knew Miller was the right man for the job.
Miller will have a task in front of him, as the Demons went 5-9 last season and lost the majority of their offense to graduation, including Cullen Robinette, who recored a school-record 266 points during his varsity career. Even though he anticipates a younger squad this season, Miller believes it will be a chance for other players to step up in a new offensive scheme.
“This year is going to be a pretty big change as far as scoring goes, and if you look at our offense, it’s gone,” Miller said. “There are also a lot of really promising guys that are going step in and fill that role. On defense, it’s pretty much in tact, and we will have Bode Ensign back in goal, so we have some promising pieces.”
Miller said introducing new plays, sets and motions will be his first step.
“There’s going to be a lot more dodging, unorthodox ways of mixing the indoor and outdoor game, and using that a bit more to our advantage,” he said.
Miller said he wants to keep developing the youth lacrosse program, specifically for middle schoolers.
“There’s a really good lacrosse community down here,” Miller said. “We have to get the high school game terminology passed down to them sooner so that it’s not as new, how the game is talked about and understood and there’s more of a seamless transition.”
With a new era of Durango lacrosse underway, Knorr believes the program will continue to grow and he believes that Miller will help the Demons get back on track.
“He has some insight on the program and things he wishes he could’ve done differently, and he’ll now get to do that,” Knorr said. “The culture of the program is still strong, and if he can tweak a few things, there’s no reason why he can’t turn things around, even after losing a handful of seniors. That showed when he was interviewing and after, as well.”
For Miller, he is ready to take on the challenge with open arms and continue to lead DHS in the right direction.
“I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be a wild ride this first year just because it’s my first time coaching at this level, but at the same time, I’m familiar with it,” Miller said. “I’ve been playing since I was in fifth grade, and now I get a chance to lead a good high school program. It’s going to be trying to get guys to see the vision and really understand how to move around on the field. It’s going to be a good season if we out-execute other teams, and I think it will really show up in the win-loss column.”