Miller looking for leadership as IU travels to Rutgers

Archie Miller doesn’t care if it’s a senior.

He’s not choosy about sophomores or juniors. At this point, it could be a freshman, and the Indiana coach wouldn’t mind a bit.

Miller is looking for leadership, one of the many missing pieces inside of an IU team that continues to unravel inside of a trying, road-heavy month of January.

Right now, Miller doesn’t care where that leadership comes from, as long as it’s there. After Friday’s ugly loss to Michigan, Miller called his group “soft” and “scared”, identifying signs of weakness inside of a team that has lost its way.

As the Hoosiers head East looking to stop their six-game skid with Wednesday’s game at Rutgers, leadership is among the qualities Miller is most hopeful to find.

“It’s up for grabs,” Miller said. “You don’t have to be a senior at this point in time to help grab leadership. All you have to do is lead by example, communicate and do the right things to be a positive teammate. At the end of the day, don’t let anything bother you or anyone else and you can kind of gravitate toward people like that. It doesn’t need to be an older guy.”

Of course, having an older, veteran presence calling the shots could go a long way.

Miller is already asking for a lot out of senior forward Juwan Morgan, who, along with classmate Zach McRoberts, is one of IU’s co-captains this season. Morgan has played at least 35 minutes in four of IU’s past five games, striving to give the Hoosiers much-needed production and intensity during his time on the floor. For the most part, he’s done that. Morgan enters Wednesday ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring (16.5 points per game), sixth in rebounds (8.1 pg) and fourth in double-doubles (eight).

But as Indiana’s recent funk has seen the Hoosiers sink from bad to worse, Miller is challenging Morgan to push those around him even more than he has already.

“I think Juwan needs to step out in the forefront right now and have more of a disposition to dominate not in the game, but in practice,” Miller said. “Let’s go back to where we were at in October or November when we had a group that was trying to prove themselves that they were worth something, or that they were pretty good.

“So much of it becomes settling in and getting comfortable. I think we have to get a little more uncomfortable every day. Guys have to start challenging each other.”

Whether in good times or bad, Miller has always viewed this time of the year as instructive. The January slate can offer a look into the soul of a team, revealing its warts and bright spots in equal measure.

For the Hoosiers, there have been much more of the former.

Since Jan. 1, Indiana ranks 351st out of 353 Division I teams with a 22.9 percent 3-point shooting mark across its first seven games this month. IU’s offense as a whole has been held under a point per possession across each of its past four games.

Defensively, each of Indiana’s past six opponents have scored at least a point per possession, something IU’s program hasn’t seen happen since the 2014-15 season.

“January teaches you who you are right now,” Miller said. “February is the time where you have to say to yourself, ‘This is where we have to go.’ Where we are right now is reality. Where we have to go and what we want to do is still in front of us. We just have to find that process again to get that edge back.”

Doing so at Rutgers may not be easy.

In his third season in New Jersey, coach Steve Pikiell has the Scarlet Knights feeling good about themselves for the first time since joining the Big Ten in 2014.

Rutgers (10-9, 3-6) has won two in a row coming off Saturday’s 64-60 victory at Penn State, and is one win away from setting a program record for Big Ten triumphs.

“They’re a really hard-playing team,” Miller said. “Coach Pikiell does a great job. They’re as huge and as big as any team in our league, in terms of size and pressure defense. At home, they’re much harder to play against. They’re a big, hard-playing team.”

Can Miller say the same about his Hoosiers?

Indiana has looked passive and out of sorts as its losing streak has grown, coming out flat to start all but two games (Maryland and Northwestern) this month.

On his weekly radio show Monday, Miller lamented the loss of his team’s “grit and fight.” It’s a team that’s missing a lot of things right now, qualities such as leadership, urgency and confidence, among them.

During his team’s trip to Rutgers, Miller is hoping to find those qualities once again.

“We can get things back,” Miller said. “It’s hard. You can lose them faster than you can get them back, at times. We have to continue to work and get those back for our group.”

11 comments

  1. Have you ever been in a job where you know one of your co-workers can’t really do the job but every once in great while he does something that you do every day, all the time and the boss recognizes that other person as being great, giving him credit for great effort then puts him in a position of leadership? Then the boss finds out that leadership is lacking and then blames it on you for not providing proper leadership??? That is Archie and McRoberts. I would want to tell the boss to kiss my grits, but probably wouldn’t, just keep doing my job but my heart wouldn’t be in it like before.

    Leadership starts at the TOP. You know, the guy that is making millions.

  2. I remember wondering how the McRoberts as captain thing would play out. Sure, we all love his hustle but when you are down two late in the game and he is standing all along at the arc with no defender in the area we all know he won’t shoot and his defender is doubling upon someone who might.

    It would be hard for me to view that guy as the leader. On offense he is a traffic cone.

  3. I tend to agree with chuck81, leadership comes from the coach first.

    Sadly, I’m not seeing as much as I’d like from Archie Miller. I don’t think it helps to call players soft or scared. Isn’t that borderline to the same thing Wilson was doing? Just because this sport isn’t seen to be as brutal as football, we’ve all learned just how dangerous it can be (e.g. the serious concussions to some of our players).

    I sometimes wonder how much all of Archie’s assistant coaches are buying in. Do the assistant coaches see Archie as a “leader” in their eye? If players don’t see a great amount of respect and admiration traveling from assistants to head coach, it could create their own bit of doubt. Doubt is hugely dysfunctional on any roster.

    Obviously, the topic on in this thread was focused on a lack of player leadership. Doubt grows amongst a roster(individually and collectively) when no one can identify a steady force of example and trust.
    But a team doesn’t function in a player roster bubble. A coach and his assistants are also laboratory mice….for players to observe interpersonal relationships and define presence or absence of leaders within its subgroup.

    Bottom Line: As a head coach, I wouldn’t talk to the press about lack of leadership, being “soft” or “scared” without truly examining yourself.

      1. I wouldn’t go that far….RMK would have yanked all their asses off the floor in the Michigan game. And then, after the game, he would have run them up and down the stairs of Assembly until 1:00 a.m.. He wouldn’t need to tell the press they were soft….They’d get the message pretty directly.

  4. Given the roster Archie inherited when he took the job at Dayton and the relative success he had there, he may not have the experience or understanding on how to manage the crisis that is developing around this year’s team. If you read other news sources and opinion sites, you can sense that Archie is beginning to approach the hot seat.

    IU fans have endured bad/disappointing seasons before, but not like this. Not with two players of the caliber of RL and JM on the roster, and not with teams that appear to quit during games. Hoosier fans are starting to smell smoke, and if things don’t change soon, they’ll start to see the smoke.

  5. In fact, IU BB fans are very familiar with this swoon . Not too many years ago IU beat Kansas and NC. Believe they were both ranked in the top 5. And, we went nowhere that year. That was a Cody and Yogi year. If anything our expectations were as high if not higher than this year. Miller not in a hot seat, not in year two. If this was year five, maybe. Unbelievable how many “fans” think they have the answer, but most have zilch coaching knowledge. Geez, let the coach coach . Those who don’t like the results, go play in the snow . Miller will make it better, just may take another year.

  6. I happen to like McRobert’s style of play because it is something I can imagine myself doing back when I could sort of thought I could play basketball. I certainly tried to do what he does!

    Unlike others on this site, I have never had any illusions that McRoberts could actually compete in the Big Ten….he simply is too small, cannot jump, cannot shoot. He is a liability on Defense and a complete waste on Offence. I like him, do not mis-understand…I like his grit and hustle! He’s just not a real Big Ten Player and it shows. He would be a simply amazing HPER player…no question about that!!!

    And it’s quite obvious that as Captain he’s not qualified to lead the team. Perhaps his being Captain is one reason why this team is so dis-jointed and dis-functional. (I did not know he was Captain until I read Chet’s post above…..

    1. I challenge you to find one post where this “other” on Scoop ever thought McRoberts to be the next Steve Green..or Tom Abernethy.

      He had a brother who had a bit of success…and Crean knew it was good advertising. Crean was always strong in advertising.

      You didn’t need to read Chet’s post to know McRoberts was a captain. I would suggest starting with Miller’s story heading up this thread. Miller mentions Morgan and McRoberts to be co-captains about 1/3 into his piece.

      If our stars were living up to their billing…and showed an ounce of leadership(yes, I’m talking to you, Romeo), then McRoberts’ intangibles and boards…and diving for loose balls….and setting picks…and boxing out so others can get boards would make his scoring abilities be under far less scrutiny.
      There really isn’t a lot wrong with his shooting form. He’s simply caught the shooting blues flu that’s been spreading through the roster.

      But make no mistake, you’d have to doing mushrooms to ever think McRoberts was much more of a legit BigTen small forward as Jonny Marlin was a point guard.

  7. It’s also my understanding that the players voted on McRoberts as a captain. So, I guess, they are to blame for their own dysfunction in naming an inappropriate leader.

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