Commentary: IU takes a Flyer on Archie Miller

Pardon the pun if you can, but Indiana athletic director Fred Glass took a Flyer on Saturday when he tapped Dayton’s Archie Miller as the 29th men’s basketball coach in IU history.

Miller was not one of the multiple coaches alleged to be real estate shopping in Bloomington over the past seven days nor was he the object of obsessive flight tracking to and from the Monroe County Airport.

He’s not the home run of a veteran like Billy Donovan or the Hoosier homecoming of Steve Alford, and he certainly runs the risk of eliciting an uninspiring “Meh” from members of the Hoosier fanbase.

But Miller’s hiring also runs the risk of success, and success in the long-term given that he is just 38 years old.

That’s the flier Glass is taking, that Miller can prove to be the next big thing and help Indiana’s present — and future — catch up to its storied past.

There were other candidates that might have been safer or sounded better publicly, but Miller has a high floor and a high ceiling that make him the best of both worlds.

It was just nine days ago that Glass sat at the podium in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and said, “Look, I don’t think we can overstate what a big deal this hire is.”

Big deal, however, does not necessarily equal big splash. The splash will come if and when Miller has Indiana back in a Final Four.

The bet Glass and the Hoosiers are taking is that a coach with six years of Division I experience, a wealth of potential and one scintillating run to the Elite Eight in 2014 will elevate both himself and the IU program.

Both the cynic and the optimist can build their case, though.

The previous two Dayton coaches to jump to power conference jobs — Oliver Purnell (Clemson) and Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech) — landed with a thud.

However, that duo won just one NCAA Tournament game in four appearances combined and no regular-season Atlantic-10 titles. Miller, on the other hand, won two A-10 titles and and five NCAA Tournament games while making four consecutive postseason appearances.

Glass had three criteria that qualified as a double-check plus — being a former IU person, being from the state of Indiana and having collegiate head-coaching experience.

Miller only checks one of the boxes.

However, Glass also said, “We want somebody who is a proven winner, somebody who is a proven recruiter who has the ability and desire to recruit in the Midwest and especially in Indiana.”

That appears to be a fit, as Miller won nearly 69 percent of his games at Dayton, improved on his conference finish in each of his past five seasons and boasted a roster that was consistently filled primarily with players from the Big Ten footprint of Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. The only exception was Indiana, where he landed only New Haven (and Spiece Indy Heat) 7-footer Steve McElvene, who tragically died of an enlarged heart last May after a standout redshirt freshman campaign.

But Miller’s first recruit in his first job as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky (under head coach Darrin Horn, a former Tom Crean assistant, ironically) was Indianapolis’ Courtney Lee. At Ohio State, Miller had a hand in recruiting a 2008 class that included Indianapolis’ Walter Offutt.

And Miller has also been serving on the United States U19 team’s staff as an assistant to his older brother and Arizona head coach, Sean, so Archie is not an unknown among the nation’s elite talent.

Give him two and a half checks on those next three boxes.

Some of Glass’ other criteria were less tangible: “Someone who is a leader of men, someone who kids trust has their best interest at heart and kids understand can make them better.”

One of the few ways to quantify that might be the reaction from the place Miller is leaving, as Dayton was exceedingly gracious from that perspective.

“He is a first-class person and coach and has made incredible contributions to our men’s basketball program, the University and the community,” Dayton AD Neil Sullivan said Saturday in a release. “He has made a lasting impact on the student-athletes he has served.”
All that said, don’t let the checkmarks or lack thereof sway you one way or the other regarding Miller.

Don’t let the newness of the hire make you assume Indiana has hit a home run, or the unfamiliarity assume a swing and a miss.

The Hoosiers are simply taking a flier on a Flyer, about whom only time will tell.

24 comments

  1. This must have slipped past an editor but you actually referred to the potential hire of Steve Alford as a “home run”. Auto correct must have changed the actual text you chose. I can’t imagine you would intentionally print that.

    Mistakes happen.

  2. I’m pretty sure that the hiring of Miller is generally viewed within basketball circles as a home run.

    1. Chet,
      I agree in basketball circles Archie is considered a home run, and it might well be, but it has to be proven. Many of the same people who call this a home run thought Tom Crean was unjustly criticized.

  3. I view A.M. hiring as a bunt. I actually do not know what a home run hire would be or would have been. This is a squeeze play with runner on third base to score the winning run with two outs in bottom of the ninth. The question is is the winning run scored or is it an outstanding at the plate. The IU men’s basketball future will tell the story.

  4. Based on how so many contributors to this this site, and so many Hoosier Fans in general defined “home run,” there were no home runs to be had. After two weeks of fantasizing about certain men that were never going to be available (or affordable) to IU, a lot of folks now have to come back down to earth and live in the real world. And in that real world, Archie Miller was the best coach IU could have gotten. The question now is, will he turn out to be a significant upgrade over the man we just fired, will he lead IU back to elite status and regular final four appearances, or will he become a victim of our outrageous expectations such that we go through this process again in five years? Here’s hoping Miller is still IU’s coach when Glass retires.

  5. Fans hopes have been Dashed by the Kelvin Samson fiasco, Crean came in and restored respectability to IU Program, but then the roller coaster after Zeller…CTC’s teams didn’t seem to KNOW what the definition of Defense is , and couldn’t catch OR make passes at times. The Lapses in Defense and the Turn overs were just going to continue and EVERYONE knew that. Crean at times even alluded to fact of a disconnect between he and the team. Everything I have read from the “experts” says Coach Miller IS the BEST young Coach ….period. ANY High School Recruit that is worth his salt; knew watching IU play when CTC was here defense wasn’t a priority BUT I’ll bet a dollar to donuts (my moms favorite saying) that THEY were told by their HS Coaches that Offense wins games but Defense wins championships( AND that could be a reason SOME Indiana kids didn’t come to IU. So just like in reality there is Apprehensive hopefulness in Coach Miller As I finish , I am suddenly reminded of CTC’s days at Marquette and the Newspaper wishing IU “good Luck” because Crean really didn’t coach that well ( we have learned that the newspapers analysis of CTC was right on point. Miller on the other hand has MANY glowing reviews of his abilities as a coach from many different sources. THAT already has Coach Miller ahead of the GAME

  6. Agree completely with your last comment, TJ Texas. Crean and Miller in a resume competition is a no brainer in favor of Miller. On every level Miller is the far superiorly qualified person for the job. I’m surprised and impressed that Glass made such an excellent choice. Just maybe Glass is better at his job than many folks thought……

  7. Like Chet posted a few days ago, everybody’s playing checkers while Glass is playing chess.

    1. I really don’t understand the hate on Glass at all. I think he has done a remarkable job up and down the line.

      1. Fred and Tommy came as a set…..(both highly recommended by Marquette Joey).

        They should have exited stage as a set. It has nothing to do with hate. Two very questionable “committees” gave them the privilege of attempting to turn around our most treasured and storied program. There are more than enough names to connect Fred and Tommy to both committees. Names intersected in business dealings and family preferences. The forces that put in motion hiring Fred and Tommy maneuvered their advantages into place…. They did all of this while condemning all actions of those preceding their tenure.
        They made themselves a set. They should have exited as a set. It’s not hate. It’s business….just as they gave the business to us.

  8. Yes, he played chess with a silly horrific coach for almost a decade. Checkmate! Glad it wasn’t a best of five. Nice that Crean gave him his AD chessboard by hiring him.
    We lost Bobby Knight …but gained the “Voice of the Hoosiers” cousin, Bobby Fischer. ROTFLMAO.

  9. First, there are no outrageous expectations. Secondly, have no idea of what home run coaching hire is until after the fact of contractual performance results.

  10. I don’t think it is going to take 3 yrs. to see if this is a good hire. We’ll know at the end of Jan. 2018, 1/2 way through the Big Ten season. My prediction is that he is going to get more out of what’s left than Crean would’ve and we’ll get to see valuing the basketball and fundamentals again. I’m highly hopeful for a competitive, fierce and fundamentally sound team. The attitude and tone of the program just changed with this hire. The players who give a damn about INDIANA on the front of the jerseys will become evident in the next month. And I want kids who hold that in high prestige. The rest can leave. Archie will be just fine with kids who care about being a team.

  11. The players who give a damn about INDIANA on the front of the jerseys will become evident in the next month. And I want kids who hold that in high prestige.

    Well said, AZ. Almost….almost…almost got the old goosebumps back. Eloquent.

  12. 1973 A terrible call against Downing very possibly cost Knight his first championship in just his second year.
    1975 Scott May suffers a season-ending broken wrist on the eve of the NCAA tournament. What does that regular season undefeated team do in the tournament if May would have been available?
    1976 Undefeated. Banner.
    1981 Banner.
    1987 Banner.

    I987 was the year Kieth Smart hit the last-second shot against Syracuse. Let’s call it lucky…to go along with some unlucky in ’73 and ’75.

    Are basketball coaches much like great movie actors? Doesn’t it seem that their best body of work is always some sort of brilliance or passion harnessed primarily in the earlier years?

    Why did we need Bob Knight for nearly thirty years? Without the unlucky breaks in ’73 and ’75, Knight and his Hoosier teams could have had four banners in Knight’s first decade.

    My point….? Why do coaching contracts have to be nearly as secure and long as a Supreme Court justice? Could many quality coaches unharness their own youthful brilliance if merely put in place at programs with sound reputations and long traditions in winning?

    Were Crean’s best years his Marquette years? I’m rambling, but there’s something very unfair in the college coaching profession. There are assumptions that brilliance is for a few…rather than a belief that many have the potential to unharness the mystery of how timing and heart …and mind that are often only granted the smallest of window(if you’re one of the lucky few to even experience such an almost utopian experience in a profession/passion).

    Maybe I have been way too hard on Crean. There is a mystery to the world none of us can ever know. Nothing of a gift of a special day…or window of brilliance lasts forever. We think men get tired …or worn out…or burned out…or are merely brilliant or incompetent. That’s not fair. Energy …emotion…spirit….are the chemical reactions and somewhere inside of those reactions a gift emerges. Those moments are comets in the heavens….Maybe if we believe in hard work and maintain a faith to be true to our passions, one will touch our own shoulders.

    Condemning failure is far easier than having the faith in all who reach for those elusive windows….There is a cruelty in those comets as they hurry on by faster than the March Madness seasons seem to come and go. Why do the moments come together and vanish almost as suddenly? Why do they never come from the stars and the heavens for those who do no wrong while life stays such a struggle?

  13. Here’s to hoping Archie engages that comet…Maybe this will be his moment when the passion meets the mystery. The only thing truly “elite” is the purpose and the faith in one’s heart and determination. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as removed from some better time in history. Leave the day, like all days, to the heavens of fortune and struggle….Be thankful rather than cynical…and be true to a quest. It is in such truth that all actions become elite.

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