Slowly but surely, IU basketball getting into gear

If Indiana coach Archie Miller can describe this offseason with any four words, it’s been “wait-and-see mode.”

The recruiting landscape has been altered by the looming COVID-19 pandemic, month to month, as the NCAA keeps extending its dead period. The training regimen has been modified, as players returned in two groups this summer, working in safely distanced, individual drills to reduce the risk of spread.

Thus far, the Hoosiers haven’t experienced any setbacks as far as the virus is concerned. But that possiblity is never out of the question. Iowa, for example, had to pause its basketball workouts this week because of positive COVID tests.

It’s just been wait and see. But also plan for the worst.

“Just little things, like what happens if your trainer happens to be quarantined? What happens if your strength coach, who works daily with the guys, happens to be quarantined? What’s the back-up plan? And I can keep going,” Miller said. “What’s the non-conference schedule going to look like? How does that work with the teams coming?”

In this heightened period of uncertainty, living in wait-and-see mode has been somewhat of an educational experience. The pandemic, unfortunately, is a continuing reality, and this summer session has been an opportunity for Miller, his staff, and his players to adjust to the new normal.

At this point, Miller expects there to be a 2020-21 basketball season. It’s just been an unorthodox process moving towards it, which started in mid-June when the first group of Hoosier athletes returned to campus. But it was only half of the basketball team at first. Players who had more resources at home, whether it be a facility or trainers, were allowed to arrive in Bloomington on July 1.

“Our main objective in coming back was to address where we were at physically, mentally, and health-wise,” Miller said. “To do that, missing 14 weeks, we had to get back to training.”

That foundational approach certainly didn’t allow the Hoosiers to start jelling with five-on-five basketball, but it did allow for an easing into a new day-to-day. The first half-dozen had to learn how and when to wear a mask. Their temperatures were checked as they made their way into the facility. Group 1 then taught Group 2 when they arrived.

At first, it was just lifting and conditioning workouts. Then it opened up to individuals shooting at a single basket, with a single rebounder, with a mask on. Coach-led workouts were allowed starting last week, but it was still in smaller groups.

Not quite up-and-down, five-on-five, but Miller was just happy to see his group in a good place physically.

“Our hope was to sort of replace, I guess what you’d call our spring and early summer, with this six-week period,” Miller said. “And now, as we return in August and go into the fall calendar, we are sort of where we’d be in the middle of summer. Did we catch up all the way? No. Do I feel great? Wish you had more time.

“But I’ll tell you this, there hasn’t been a day I’ve woke up since we’ve had one player on campus where I haven’t said our deal is working.”

By week’s end, they will have made it through the summer without a shutdown, which is something. Miller heaped praise on IU’s head trainer, Tim Garl, for keeping everything running.

“He’s the guy in the building every day, directing, almost policing the practices when guys are too close together,” Miller said. “Ice bags is a whole new element now, you go back to the training room … he’s in there all day long.”

The hope is the Hoosiers are getting enough accomplished to keep the steady, upward trend of the program going. A team that finished 20-12, and likely would have made this year’s NCAA tournament, if not for the pandemic, returns seven of its top 10 contributors. Rising sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis, a third-team All-Big Ten selection, is chief among them.

Health-wise, the Hoosiers are in good position. Rising redshirt sophomore Jerome Hunter, who had his tonsils removed this week, will miss the last couple of summer workouts as they wrap up this week. But that’s it.

Rising junior guard Rob Phinisee, in particular, feels like the off time the pandemic provided was good for his body. He dealt with multiple injuries in 2019-20, including a nagging abdominal ailment.

“I feel so much better,” Phinisee said. “This isn’t what we wanted to end the season, but I feel like that really helped my body, just having that time off. I feel like this is the best I’ve felt in a while.”

This summer, Miller has gotten his first — albeit limited — preview of what he has at his disposal.

He should have a deeper backcourt, with veterans like Phinisee and senior Al Durham paired with an emerging sophomore in Armaan Franklin, and incoming freshmen Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal, and Trey Galloway.

In the frontcourt, he doesn’t have Justin Smith, who has transferred to Arkansas, but the combination of Jackson-Davis, Joey Brunk, and Race Thompson makes this a “hybrid” squad that can shift from big to small, as needed.

It’s just about moving this team into the fall. Then hopefully the season this winter.

Miller is still optimistic that’s coming.

“I’ll be shocked, absolutely shocked, if we don’t turn out a good basketball season,” Miller said.

“We’re crossing our fingers, man.”

17 comments

  1. Just hoping Archie doesn’t turn out to be another cardboard cutout coach. I tired of the false confidence and banging the bandwagon drums of meaningless gibberish to appease the rose-colored glasses crowd.

    Give back some of the salary, Arch. Last season was shortened…and it’s more than likely this season will be altered/shortened/abandoned as well. Start thinking of how to give back to the university and fans. This is a time to show thankfulness and humility. Please just don’t be another version of cardboard minus the constant spiel.

        1. Not as of last week. I suspect she would wait as long as possible, because if things get changed, getting back home would be difficult, if not impossible.

      1. What about all of the other coaches? IU athletics will be short $11.8 million as a minimum.

        1. I don’t believe there have been universal salary reductions among head coaches, but that may have changed. Assistants have been spared. As for addition expense savings, travel expenses have declined and they’re budgeted for declines in the Fall and Winter. Fewer football games will result in some charter flight savings, though a fifth game (which will be away) will probably wipe that out. There will be lodging savings, too, and recruiting T&E is way down. There are some modest maintenance savings through reduced need and deferrals, and some minor CapEx stuff will get pushed down the road. It may not be official, but there’s a de facto hiring freeze, as well, and budgeted compensation adjustments won’t occur. The income stream from the Big 10 is still strong, though, so IU can weather this decently well.

          1. Very true, which is my understanding as to why there hasn’t been across the board cuts. And I believe Miller and Allen approached Glass and Dolson before anything was ever asked of them. The only other expense related item I didn’t mention was there is some debt service deferral that they can do, but I don’t think they’re in a position where they feel the need. At least not yet.

  2. oops..

    minus the constant [sanctimonious] spiel.

    You’re a sizable upgrade, Archie. But don’t let it go to your head. You’ve really done nothing yet….(other than earn quite a momentous salary while being allowed injury excuses, roster turnover excuses, holdover excuses, March Madness cancellation excuses, and pandemic excuses.

    Archie is going to be about 15 million into his personal Fort Knox without having to prove anything. He’s not proving much on a basketball court, but he’s sure showing he knows how to cash in on opportunity and fortunate timing.

  3. Slowly but surely getting IU basketball back into gear. The slowly part is almost 100% accurate with exception of a couple seasons since B. Knight era. Surely, is 0% accurate with exception of a couple seasons since B. Knight era. Yes, it is now what was the Knight era. As far as salary one thing is for sure Archie will probably shoot 100% par with all the others making elite salaries which will amount to sacrificial tokens of giving back that most couldn’t even give what those tokens are or represent.

  4. Bingo again, t. “Sacrificial tokens.” Nice brevity. Now I’ll hit them with the firehouse.

    10% is almost a bigger insult than not giving back at all. Doesn’t really matter because the dollars and reputation lost on Crean was college basketball’s heist of the century….proving the power of TV evangelists.

    Personally, I don’t believe Archie had the resume to make the sort of “elite” money his raking in. Luck man. The fact he followed someone terribly inept at coaching gives the impression he’s in the upper echelon. He’s an upgrade. Is he worthy of Brad Stevens’ level of pay simply because there are 40-year-old banners hanging over McCracken?

    And does the 10% come off his base salary or the true dollars normally made after bonuses, incentives and all the other perks which mask the majority of the earnings over the base?

    IU Coach Archie Miller’s new contact was unveiled Tuesday.

    The contract runs for seven years and will pay Miller an average of $3.35 million per year. He could also potentially earn more than $1 million in bonuses each year.

    Miller’s base salary is $550,000 per year, payable in monthly installments. For his outside marketing and promotion, he will receive between $1.65 and $1.95 million a year. This income begins at $1,650,000 a year and increases by $50,000 every year.

    Miller will be eligible to earn deferred compensation at an annual rate of $1,000,000.

    Based on these, he will be guaranteed to make $3.2 million next season, which will make him the eighth-highest paid coach in college basketball (courtesy: Indiana Daily Student / June 28, 2017).

    He’s yet to coach one March Madness game at IU. By the time the country is back to normal (and sports gets back to having butts in seats and any sense of “normalcy”), he’ll be heading into his 5th season and 15 million in the black (actually over 15 million but we’ll use that figure for the easier math). 10% of $500,000….? 50,000/15,000,000 = .003 = .03 % .
    He just bought your lunch.

  5. If you prefer the “brevity” version, his contract (7-year) guarantees 23.5 million. 10% of this year’s base = $55,000
    55,000/23,500,000 = .0023 . He has donated .023% of his guaranteed earnings at IU.
    He’s already earned over 12 million since his hire. I doubt one season of donating his entire base salary is going to put his family right on the edge of needing the government’s pandemic relief monthly $600 stimulus check.

  6. Well HC, it WAS nice while it lasted. But once again the incessant blather has taking over another thread.

  7. Good catch…Meant to type 0.23% lol…

    He’s basically giving just under 1/4 of 1% of his total 7-year contract guarantee.
    Equivalent to giving 1/427 (23,500,000/55,000 = 427) instead of 1/10.

    I like thinking of him giving 1/427 instead of 1/10 his salary (as stated by Jeremy)…because it’s basically more accurate to the ‘complete’ truth. Then again, maybe Archie will kick in some more if the season is postponed/cancelled or severely altered…(hopefully, not cancelled). Maybe he’ll give 1¢ for every $2.00 earned instead of a 1 ¢ for every $4.27..? Generosity abounds during Covid…It’s truly heartwarming.

  8. 1 ¢ for every $4.27 earned?

    A McDonald’s worker earning $12.81/hr. would have to accept $12.78/hr. to meet the level of Archie’s generosity. It almost feels like Christmas instead of Merry Covid…A time of giving.

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