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.