COLUMN: Archie Miller on recruiting and seeing IU becoming UNC

Archie Miller watched Monday’s national championship game, and he had a question — perhaps the same question you had.

“Why can’t Indiana become North Carolina?” Miller asked a quintet of newspaper reporters earlier this week.

Only the way Miller said it, a punctuation mark might have been more fitting, as that line helped wrap up a lengthy discussion recruiting at IU.

The question is only natural, especially given the Hoosiers’ impressive win over the Tar Heels at Assembly Hall some five-plus months ago.

IU went on to miss the NCAA Tournament. UNC went on to win a national title.

And it made for a certain symmetry on Miller’s first day on the recruiting trail Thursday, when he spoke with New Albany’s Romeo Langford, the No. 2 player nationally in the class of 2018, for the first time. Also on Thursday, Langford had a visitor in New Albany by the name of Roy Williams, as the Tar Heel coach visited just three days after cutting down the nets in Phoenix.

It illustrates the mountain Miller must climb, and the ground he will have to make up in recruiting circles, something that can’t be done overnight.

“You can’t say, ‘Hey, I’m going to be about the great players here, do everything we can,’ and the next thing you know, about four months go by and you did nothing,” Miller said. “We have to follow through on everything.”

Part of that follow through involves making IU a destination spot for high school basketball coaches in the state.

“I want to bring the high school coaches to Bloomington. They have to have the ability to come to Bloomington and be with us,” Miller said. “One, obviously workouts and open door policies and things like that for practice, that’s a given, but I also think we’re going to really strive to bring a coaching philosophy weekend, things like that, to Bloomington where once a year we can get them all here and they can watch a weekend of practices, spend time with us, speak.

“But I want an environment in Bloomington where they are No. 1, welcome, whether they have a player or not, but No. 2, I want them to feel like this is an extension of what they do.”

That’s all part of the “inside out” recruiting approach Miller discussed in his opening press conference, an idea he elaborated on in a lounge just outside the Hoosiers’ locker room on Wednesday. This time he referred repeatedly to “the bread basket” of recruiting, starting in-state and moving into the surrounding states in a manner not unlike Bob Knight in his hey day at IU, something reinforced for Miller by his former boss at Ohio State, Thad Matta, who had a national runner-up finish in 2007 with 11 of his 12 roster players hailing from Indiana or Ohio.

“It’s something we’re going to talk a lot about,” Miller said. “It starts in Indiana. If you can get here in a car, that’s when your greatest results are going to happen, because you’re going to get these people to your campus more than you ever would before.”

Miller admits the landscape has changed, thanks in no small part to TV and the Big Ten Network in particular, with players seeing a wider range of potential destinations than ever before.

“For whatever reason, I feel like the Big Ten model is different than a lot of places,” said Miller, who has played and coached in the ACC, coached in the Pac-12 and coached in the Big Ten. “Success in the Big Ten revolves around the borders of your school, revolves around the walls of the state of Indiana. The kids that grow up and love IU, kids you find that can come here and have great experiences are kids that are going to do your work for you 10 times fold in recruiting.”

That recruiting now also includes the potential for one and done players, a label that has only applied to Noah Vonleh and Eric Gordon among IU players in the last decade.

Miller isn’t adverse to recruiting a potential one and done player like Langford, but he has no plans on imitating Kentucky either.

“They’ve got to fit me, and they’ve got to fit Indiana University,” Miller said. “To be honest, there’s probably only about 10 one and dones (each year), and there’s 50 that think they’re one and dones. If you take the 40 who aren’t one and dones but think they’re one and dones, that’s where problems arise.

“If you were able to get the great one and done, and they’re about winning and they’re truly winners, about playing and doing it the right way, again absolutely, especially when it comes down to doing the job in school and then having the ability to come back like the Cody Zellers right now, like Noah Vonleh, guys that are great kids, that are smart and are about winning. When it gets delicate is when you start to just try to hit the home runs and bring the guys in here that aren’t about winning, aren’t about going to school — that’s when it doesn’t work.”

As a point of reference, again, North Carolina.

The Tar Heels haven’t had a one and done player since Brandan Wright in 2007. What their title-winning roster did have was a strong local flavor among the 13 scholarship players — five North Carolina natives, two natives of neighboring states Virginia and South Carolina, three more from traditional ACC footprint states Maryland and Georgia, two from ACC expansion state Florida and one national recruit from Texas in top NBA prospect and All-American Justin Jackson.

You could make a similar case for the best IU team of the last decade — the 2012-13 Hoosiers. Of their 13 scholarship players, seven were either Indiana natives or played their high school basketball in the state, one had Indiana ties, one was from border state Kentucky and four were national recruits from Florida, Alabama or Maryland. That Indiana team also had four in-state walk-ons.

“I’ve always said in this day and age with talented coaches, talented resources, relationships, if you have the best of the best (on staff), don’t be surprised if you can’t hit a difference maker out of the park who loves Indiana, loves your staff, but they come from (for example) New Jersey,” Miller said. “Nothing wrong with that. It can’t be what you do every day, but there’s nothing wrong with those impact guys, those difference makers.”

And those difference makers may not necessarily fit your prototypical Indiana basketball player, as Miller sees diversity as a good thing, even if it always circles back home.

“A lot of how I am, how I’ve been groomed as a coach, in some cases, some of those city kids, they fit me a little bit,” he said. “I like a little of that city, like a little of that toughness, like a guy with a harder edge that maybe is coming from a different way of thinking, but without a doubt it starts and stop with your bread basket.”

It’s feeding the Hoosier faithful from that bread basket that is most satisfying for everybody, making it no surprise that Miller would bring up the name of two of the most popular Hoosiers in recent history — Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell.

Those players were an inextricable part of the success IU had in their careers, particularly as seniors. And the fact that they were Indiana natives, players that fans and alumni alike could truly call Hoosiers, made the love affair that much deeper and richer.

And Miller realize he doesn’t have to go far to find the next Hulls or Ferrell.

“You cannot spread yourself thin (in recruiting),” Miller said. “You cannot step up to the T-ball field and start swinging for the fences, because that’s how you miss, miss, miss, miss, miss.

“Because at the end of the day, 90 percent of the decisions being made with the best players in the country start and stop with distance from home. That’s just how it is.”

Which brings Miller to North Carolina, a team that has figured out how to play that game and play it successfully — partly out of necessity due to the ongoing NCAA investigation into academic fraud — but it’s an approach that seems rather applicable to Indiana.

“If you look at who’s consistently knocking on the door (of a national championship) right now,” Miller said, “they’ve found a way to get their guys developed, ways to get kids older and have kids that — Hey, he grew up two hour from Chapel Hill and loves North Carolina; He has somebody around him who grew up loving North Carolina.

“And you understand that’s not always been the case at North Carolina. They’ve changed their model a little bit, but that’s the perfect model.”

And like a preacher getting to the point of his sermon, Miller then asks and answers his own question.

“Why can’t Indiana become North Carolina?

“I have no idea why not.”
Sports writer Jeremy Price can be reached at 812-331-4342 or jprice@heraldt.com. Follow him on Twitter @JPPrice.

24 comments

  1. The more I read and hear about IU’s new basketball coach, the more impressed I am.

    Does anyone else agree that when talking about UNC Basketball, the elephant in the room is that program’s decade’s long case of severe academic fraud? How was the basketball program allowed to continue on for so long without any penalties? The NCAA is a disgrace!

  2. IU SHOULD NOT STRIVE TO BECOME NORTH CAROLINA. IU SHOULD STRIVE TO BECOME IU. I think the reporting is miss spoken as IU strives to become a national championship itself. IU SHOULD NOT STRIVE TO BE ANYBODY EXCEPT IU AND WHAT IU CAN BE!

  3. AGREED! Nobody inside the border formed by Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky wants the identity of UNC. The university bearing the namesake of the state of Indiana is to good for that. And no, no punctuation mark either.

  4. t- Couldn’t agree more. And why would we want to be a school that is attempting to duck 15 years of institutionalize academic fraud? UNC is the last school IU should strive to become. If the NCAA has any credibility left (don’t hold your breath), we will soon see vacated championships.

    Interesting/odd couple weeks from Archie….Appears to be rather fond of coaches who have worked extensively under “Criminalpari.” Has already hired one Calipari guy(Bruiser Flint) and is looking at another(Schilling). And wonders why IU can’t be like a program that spent 15-18 years of offering fake/ghost classes to athletes…as if their the gold standard of excellence?

    Just when you thought things couldn’t get more bizarre….?

  5. As one would expect, my 30 years living in NC has left me with many Tar Heel fans as friends. It’s not an elephant in the room, it’s a dozen elephants in the room.

    It seems to be broken into two groups. Tar Heel fans who never attended Chapel Hill as a student think it is all overblown and the NCAA is ‘out to get’ North Carolina.

    Tar Heel fans who are alumni are devastated and feel that they have been cheated and lied to. I don’t hear them making excuses. They are appalled and assume something bad is coming down the pike and UNC deserves every bit of it.

    I don’t think any of that crossed CAM’s mind. I’m sure his whole point was securing the borders. Ironically, UNC teams, over the years, aren’t generally dominated by North Carolina natives. It’s not as bad as Duke but this team is an exception, not a rule.

  6. And, again…I talked about this issue two years ago and nobody cared. I posted on Scoop numerous times of how the UNC scandal was being swept under the rug while we constantly heard of our own program “wreckers”(a laughable label compared to UNC’s institutionalized fraud and the doctored transcripts for athletes containing high grades for classes that didn’t even exist).

    The NCAA has dragged their feet on this more than Igor in ‘Young Frankenstein.’ How do you spell ‘ESTABLISHMENT?’
    UNC should have never been playing in tournaments for the last two seasons. The ‘death penalty’ should have already come to Chapel Hill. All those ESPN analysts at the Final Four(including our ex-witch hunter) and not one had the cajones to mention one word about the academic fraud at UNC. Giant hypocrites.

    1. I agree with Chet, that the point both Archie and this column were intended to make was that IU can reach Final Fours and win national championships by dominating local/regional recruiting with a few select impact additions nationally. Forget all the talk about UNC and just look at what he says about recruiting, one and dones and guys with an edge.

  7. No matter what, some always want to make mountains out of mole hills. His point was simple and obvious to anyone who can read The Cat in the Hat without screaming McCarthyism at the top of their lungs.

  8. He may just have ‘The Cat in the Hat’ with all the “Criminalpari” connections being courted.

    Tom Crean? With all those warm hugs and lost Indiana recruits for Izzo and MSU, pretty sure he was ‘Green Eggs in Your Face and Ham it Up.’

    We all know what Archie meant…You don’t have to be a toddler snot about it. And I’m sure Archie is very aware of the real “criminals” and “wreckers”(coaches/programs) in college basketball….and that wasn’t the enemy our previous bozo was using as his ultimate excuse for nine seasons(including the touching exit interview with Dan Dockersitch).

  9. All of the above being said, teams of the ‘blue blood’ have been rather touchy subjects for most IU fans over the last 15 years. We occasionally have our little fun in Assembly Hall against these sorts, but on college basketball’s biggest stages most the ‘blue bloods’ have pounded us into black and blue.
    I really don’t give a damn what Carolina was ….is….or shall be. It’s all about big, big money and that’s why the NCAA won’t sniff up their butt [(unless it involves a bathroom stall instead of academic cheating in the major athletic programs of the university stamped with the state’s name)].
    How honorable of the NCAA to put their powerful foot down to repeal a bathroom bill….while they look the other way when it comes to the obvious crap all over the walls involving UNC’s academic fraud.

    1. I’d have to disagree. We may not be able to beat a directional school from Idaho but for some insane reason the Hoosiers have a fairly remarkable record against ‘blue bloods’ the past few years.

      We are, quick guess, 4-2 against UNC, Kentucky, and Kansas over the last 3 seasons.

  10. I remember when Cam Cameron aspired IU football to be like North Carolina football his first year after IU played them respectively. I think North Carolina at the time was ranked in the top 15 or so and was fairly good. However, IU basketball is its own and should be as such. Exclamation point or no exclamation point, IU Men’s basketball must be IU Men’s basketball

    1. That would have been when Mack Brown was coach before he left for Texas. Just goes to show what good coaching can do.

      That and an entire division of the university devoted to ‘ghost’ classes.

  11. Chet- I was talking about games against the “blue bloods” in the Big Dance…not at Assembly or on a Hawaiian vacation neutral setup.

    Pretty sure Mike Davis is the last IU coach to win against a “blue blood” deep into a tournament.

  12. UNC Bigs from the Hoosier state:

    Eric Montross, Lawrence North H.S. (1990-94 / NCAA Champion ’93)
    Sean May, Bloomington North H.S. (2002-05 / NCAA Champion ’05)
    Tyler Zeller, Washington H.S. (2008-12 / NCAA Champion ’09 / Elite 8 ’12 / ACC Player of the Year ’12)
    Somebody might want to tell Archie that UNC already is Indiana. And my guess is that the Indiana kids didn’t go to ‘ghost’ classes.

    And then there’s some help for Duke too….
    Mason Plumlee, Fort Wayne native (2009-13 / NCAA Champion 2010)
    Miles Plumlee, Fort Wayne native ( 2008-12 / NCAA Champion 2010)

    And then there’s even more Bigs we lost on right in our neck of the woods: Matt Howard(Butler)….Mitch McGary(Michigan)….Glenn Robinson III(Michigan)….Trey Lyles(UK)…..Caleb Swanigan(Purdue)….Greg Oden(OSU)…Deshaun Thomas(OSU)…Zach Randolph(MSU). There’s a few more Final Fours and Championship game appearances from that list as well.

    And then there’s Shawn Kemp…..a.k.a. “Reign Man”..Didn’t go to college.
    1996 NBA Finals(Lost to MJ and the Bulls)
    6× NBA All-Star (1993–1998)
    3× All-NBA Second Team (1994–1996)
    McDonald’s All-American (1988)

    ______________

    Yup…Everything hinged on Cody Zeller alright.

  13. Miller’s ref “becoming like UNC” was in how UNC built teams primarily recruiting in NC n nearby states. UNC competes high-level w in-state recruiting n surr states, (n NO one-n-dones) which interprets using local good class B players who LOVE their UNC n becoming a Class A team! Miller had zero ref to academics . It’s UNC that should b like us. N Miller’s comment how it won’t work about kids who think they’re “one-n-dones” from day one HIT JBJ RIGHT ON THE HEAD!

  14. Invitations consistently and regularly scheduling get together(s) for all Indiana HS BB Coaches to IU along with always having an open arms attitude when they arrive unannounced is a strong, genuine and relatively cheap marketing tool. Those coaches are special to IU. Something Crean should have understood and used. Displaying Miller’s Brand at IU is the best way available to build a pipeline of Hoosier Talent to Bloomington. This kid has only been in Indiana 2 weeks and he already understands the state better than any coach since RMK. He quickly embraced how much he needs the state of Indiana to reach his goals. Has not taken him long to earn my respect.

  15. Laughable…Without dominant post players from INDIANA, very strong odds that Roy Williams/Dean Smith don’t have three of the last four banners @ UNC(’93, ’05, 09).

    Duke had Indiana’s Plumlees when they won the 2010 Championship.

    Beyond the many Elite 8’s and Final Fours, Indiana post players are involved in 4 title banners in the span of 17 years for the two “blue blood” programs of North Carolina (a better pace than Knight in his prime who was averaging one banner every 5-6 years).
    If Cody goes to UNC, the Tar Heels would have likely had another title tucked in between ’09 and now. What happened instead? The one state of Indiana big who is finally secured to wear the candy stripes gets Tartuffe as his coach….”because it’s UNC” where he would have played at a Final Four.

  16. For those Hoosiers who are ‘testing waters’ and undecided about going into the draft, here’s how Archie should explain their roster situation.

  17. I mentioned in my in my first post how report was miss spoken. It was. I understand that the issue being talked about is winning national championships (and if the stars align right IU could do that next year). However, IU talking about striving to be anything or anybody accept IU is in poor taste. IU should be it’s own blue blood elite program only. Yes, to me that means getting it’s share of blue chip in state recruits to go along with the various levels of championship basketball on and off the basketball court.

  18. I read a statement By Coach Miller on the “Inside-Out” philosophy and that being like UNC. He clarified that by mentioning during RMK’s glory years ….He controlled and recruited from primarily Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. Coach Miller would like to get back to that type of “recruiting control”

  19. UNC plucked our Indiana post players who were McDonald’s All-Americans …..
    Indiana U. needs to land more of their own Mickie D’s talent ….and begin to land the Mr. Basketball winners on a more steady basis.

    The real game-changing talent rarely comes year after year…..Outside of Zeller, we’ve missed on such a litany of in-state top players(guards, combo guys, and post players alike) over the last decade that it’s almost like rebuilding the state from scratch.

    Do we get Romeo? Highly doubtful. To foster relationships and connect the corners of the state in appropriate fashion, we needed a coach like Archie five or six years ago….There’s a lot of lost time and ground to make up.

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