Long after his introductory press conference was over, Archie Miller tapped away at his cell phone and, through a series of text messages, explained his first plan of attack.
On the other end of the conversation was Miller’s old friend and mentor, his college coach at North Carolina State, Herb Sendek. One day into his new job as Indiana basketball coach, Miller outlined to Sendek the task he believes is a high priority during his first week on duty.
“His focus right now is on the Indiana players,” Sendek said. “I know it’s really important to him to connect with his players, to embrace his players. I know that’s his first order of business right now on the job.”
Cultivating relationships with players — both current and future — and potential staffers is the most important thing Miller can during his first few days on the job. Five days into his tenure, the 38-year-old coach is making the necessary contacts.
In the first few hours after he was named IU coach on Saturday afternoon, Miller reached out to former coach Tom Crean’s three-man signing class for next season. Two of those players, Al Durham and Clifton Moore, had already requested to be released from their signed letters of intent with the school, so Miller initiated conversations with those players’ families and expressed his interest in keeping them all in the Hoosier family.
On Monday morning, Miller had his first meeting with the team he inherits, explaining that while he wasn’t the coach who brought those players to Bloomington, he still looks at them with their best interests at heart.
“It’s going to take time,” Miller said. “There’s only one of me right now, but as these guys know, I’ve already had a lot of conversations on the way. We’re going to start having a lot of conversations as we keep moving forward. I have to invest in their families. I have to invest in the important people in their lives, and like I told them, I didn’t recruit you, but you’re mine, so at that point, if you’re mine, then you have to do everything in my power to make sure that you understand there’s great belief and value in you here. There’s a clean slate. It’s going to take time. I think every coach goes through that when they show up at a place. It’s an awkward moment not only for them but for me, as well, but I think we’re off to a good start.”
As Miller discussed his philosophies and intentions with his new players, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass stood close by and watched and listened.
Glass said later that Miller’s direct tone and approach in that initial meeting made him more confident than ever that Miller was the right man to take control of the program.
“He was real with the guys,” Glass said. “He was succinct in his presentation. … 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.”
Miller isn’t limiting conversations merely to those already inside the program. He still needs a staff to surround him.
Tom Ostrom, an assistant for Miller during his six years at Dayton, is reportedly being considered for the Flyers’ now-vacant head coaching job. Should that position go to someone else, Ostrom would seem a good fit to join Miller in Bloomington.
“The most important thing as a team are coaches,” Miller said. “You’d better have a team of coaches if you want to have a great team. You have to have an unbelievable commitment to one another. You have to be completely united, and the message is always the same, and if that group is working like that, regardless of where they’re from, the current players, the guys on your team, are going to give great effort and they’re going to get better.”
As he examines the staff positions that must be filled, Miller says he’s also considering candidates with ties to the state and to IU’s program
“I do think this is a unique place with tremendous pride in the state, and there’s a lot of things that go on around that we want the best players here from our state here because that’s what’s going to make everyone so excited to watch them grow up in front of their eyes at IU like it was a long time ago, I think,” Miller said. “All to be discovered, but there’s some important decisions to be made.”
And some important relationships to be built.