Archie Miller strode purposefully but unassumingly into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall Monday afternoon.
He waved to the applause of the crowd assembled and shook a hand or two along the way, but the only smiles came from those walking just behind — his wife Morgan, sixth-grade daughter Leah and Indiana athletic director Fred Glass.
Miller, however, had his game face on for his first public appearance as the Hoosiers’ coach.
Once at the podium, Miller spoke for more than 30 minutes, providing first his own remarks and then answers to questions from the media, somehow winning the press conference without it ever feeling like he was trying to do so.
It didn’t come off as a sales pitch — although in many ways, it was, for the current players seated in the second row, for the future players watching on TV and for the fans both near and far who wanted to see what the new guy was all about.
What they heard was a quiet intensity, a detailed plan and a desire for the university, players and fans to all live up to their individual and collective lofty expectations.
In other words, what they heard was exactly what Glass heard that convinced him to make the hire.
“The personal connection of just how real the guy is, which is good for our relationship but more importantly will translate into how he interacts with our former players, our fans, our players, our recruits,” Glass said in an impromptu interview session following the formal press conference.
To put it simply, Miller displayed the intangibles.
“Exactly right,” Glass said. “He got on my list because all the objective data was there, then it was the intangibles that really make the world go ’round that really honed him in as the guy I wanted to get.”
Just for good measure, Glass got one last piece of confirmation when Miller met with the current IU team ahead of Monday’s press conference.
“He was real with the guys,” Glass said. “And he was succinct in his presentation.
“President (Michael McRobbie) talked to him on the phone, and I asked what he thought, and he says (in an Australian accent), ‘My goodness, he’s quite precise with his lexicon, isn’t he?’ And I thought that was pretty perceptive, because (Archie) is. He says it, he doesn’t need to say it again, and he communicates in a way that I think the guys will really respond to.”
Ultimately, the word Glass, McRobbie or anyone who listened on Monday would use to describe Miller is “genuine.”
A genuine guy who at one point started popping his knuckles as he answered a question about what made Indiana the right opportunity to leave his former job at Dayton, concluding with a story about his experience in the Big Ten while an assistant under Thad Matta at Ohio State.
“I was blown away by this place the most, though,” he said. “Really, my lasting impression here was nine years ago in Coach (Tom) Crean’s first year when things weren’t off to a good start. He had inherited something that wasn’t very easy to take over.
“I remember being in here and feeling the power of this building on that team, and I left saying, ‘I wonder what it’s like in there when they’re really good.'”
Beyond that, you could feel the embrace when Miller said of the current IU players, “I didn’t recruit you, but you’re mine.”
You could feel a snarl of defiance when Miller said, “We have to become a tough, nasty team on defense.”
And you could feel the sense of awe when Miller said of his new job, “I don’t want to say too much right now, but it’s eye-opening. You feel it right now. You feel where you’re at.”
Where he’s at is a place that welcomes candor in its coaches, as Bob Knight proved, if for no other reason than the knowledge and passion the state of Indiana has for the game of basketball.
On separate occasions Monday, both Miller and Glass deferred to former Hoosier Quinn Buckner for the best description of the new coach.
It required just three simple letters: OKP.
“Quinn said to me, ‘Look Fred, he’s not from Indiana, but he’s OKP — he’s our kind of people,'” Glass said. “Scott May was from Ohio, Quinn Buckner was from Illinois, but these are Indiana dudes, and I think over time our fans will feel that about (Archie) as well.”
They might already be feeling that way after the opening press conference, which saw Miller again trying to stride purposefully off to an interview with the Big Ten Network. Only this time, he was intercepted by autograph-seekers ready to make the latest Hoosier adoption official.
The feeling is mutual, and genuine.
“I’m just like everyone here,” Miller said, “and I want everybody to have that feel as we keep moving forward that someone really respects the way that the state operates, the kids in this state, the high school coaches, the families. They all grow up wanting to be here, and for me, I hope to be able to represent it in a big way.”
He’s off to a good start.