IU preaching patience inside of “serious rebuild”

A season of such promise has unraveled, leaving Indiana’s basketball program stuck in the mud.

The Hoosiers are sputtering, lost inside a seven-game skid, and with a trip to No. 6 Michigan State looming Saturday evening, Indiana’s slide is expected to continue.

Meanwhile, Fred Glass’ belief in the program’s direction hasn’t wavered.

Although he decried recent results, Indiana’s athletic director made it clear during an appearance at Friday’s IU Board of Trustees committee meeting in Columbus that in no way do the current circumstances make him want to jump ship on Archie Miller.

In fact, Glass intends to see that ship sailing for quite a while.

Glass told trustees that he believes Miller will eventually be known as one of IU’s iconic coaches, offering full-throated support of the man he hired to a seven-year contract worth at least $24 million in March 2017.

Before that happens, Glass said, the program needs some work.

Glass sought to reframe the tone of IU’s season, describing this stage of Miller’s tenure as a “serious rebuild.”

In doing so, Glass asked for patience. This season has not unfolded as Miller — or anyone else inside the athletic department — planned.

Injuries have stolen size and options from a team that Miller expected to be deep. Fatigue has sapped the powers from IU’s best players, Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford. Making matters more complicated, team chemistry seems to have been challenged, if not strained.

That’s all led to IU’s second season under Miller swinging violently off course. What was once a team angling for a return to the NCAA Tournament has devolved into a squad merely trying to win a game.

It’s also left Miller trying to balance the challenges he faces in the short term with his big picture objective of returning Indiana basketball to national relevancy.

“You know, when you take over a program, you have to start with where you’re at,” Miller said. “There’s got to be hopefully progress along the way each month, whenever it is along the way, whether that’s your development, whether that’s your recruiting, and, at the end of the day, I think this team was going to be a team that needed a lot of parts, and it needed a lot of chemistry this year and our depth was going to be something that we sort of hung our hat on.

“This team played really hard early in the season, and, like it or not, our depth has been challenged in a lot of different ways. In the Big Ten, you’re going to need a lot of bodies. You’re going to need some experience to go along with it, and we’re in a stretch in the first month of the Big Ten play in terms of January where our depth and our chemistry and our team changed.”

January tested Indiana’s roster, and the Hoosiers almost completely failed — players and coaches both. In that time, Big Ten losses have exposed the holes inside of Miller’s team.

The Hoosiers have been short on trusted upperclassmen. Injuries have limited senior Zach McRoberts and junior De’Ron Davis, whose size was missed as he dealt with a nagging ankle injury suffered on Jan. 3.

Junior guard Devonte Green has proven himself unreliable, both through his play and behavior. Green, who missed the past three games due to suspension, will be available at Michigan State. Another upperclassman, Evan Fitzner, has struggled to adapt to high-major college basketball after Miller plucked him from St. Mary’s as a graduate transfer this past spring.

All the while, the coach inherited a poor APR situation that limited his ability to adjust his roster at the risk of incurring NCAA violations.

That’s left Miller in a situation where he’s dealing with youth and inexperience as the season has progressed.

“You need the returners that have been a part of your program in the first year to be solid, and it’s kind of like I said before, we just haven’t had the returners to really, really stabilize this youth,” Miller said. “As you get ready to go through the next phase, you’re recruiting classes and you’re going to get younger before you get older. That’s just the way it’s set up. You want to be able to bring in classes, you want to be able to develop them, you want them to be the backbone to what you do as you get further down the line, and getting older isn’t something that happens really fast when there’s graduation.

“From our standpoint, you looked at not only five seniors (graduating after last season), but you looked at the rising junior class last year with OG (Anunoby) and obviously Thomas (Bryant). Those guys go pro and so quickly it’s seven guys that go away realistically in the first 12 months. That’s nothing we didn’t know about on the front end when we took over. It’s nothing we’re even looking at right now. The quest right now is to focus in on what we’re doing as a group here, and we have a lot of room to grow here in the next couple weeks. We can get better.”

That goes for everyone, Miller and his staff included. Miller gets a pass for injuries, but at some point the buck also stops with him.

At the same time, Miller is trying to stay positive. To Miller, Saturday’s game at No. 6 Michigan State represents the chance to start over. It’s the first game of a new month, a contest that tips off the back-half of Indiana’s 20-game conference schedule.

The Hoosiers have shown no signs that they’re close to ending their four-week slide, but their coach is aiming for optimism.

“We’re obviously at the halfway point of league play, so as we start up in February and you reset your batteries for the stretch run, our goal is obviously still in front of us and what we want to do,” Miller said. “We’ve got to take it one day at a time. We look at this back 10 as sort of a restart in terms of where we’re at. It’s a short season, a 10-game season, and it starts one game at a time, and Michigan State is up next, and we’ve got to be good. We’ve got to try to be better than we’ve been.”

20 comments

  1. It sure read to me that Archie has thrown this team under the bus. Well, at least we get to watch a functioning program (Michigan State) tonight.

    1. I read nothing representing “throwing this team under the bus” either on the lines or between them.

  2. We must not overlook the fact of how different Bob Knight’s first team(and early prospects for success) would have looked if Steve Downing and George McGinnis were not sticking around for season one and two. Downing’s stupendous play in the post helped propel Knight to a quick Final Four trip….

    I don’t like excuses, but can we imagine the difference in Archie’s first couple seasons if Bryant and Anunoby had stuck around for an extra season or two? Bryant was clearly not ready for the NBA but having his game paired with Morgan suddenly takes all the pressure off our backcourt. Just imagine how it could have changed Romeo’s ability to score?

    Back in the day(early/mid 70’s), freshmen were automatic redshirts ineligible to participate in games. By sophomore season they had already practiced and developed chemistry and the gift of learning the game before officially stepping onto the court for competitive live college basketball. What looked to be a freshman/first-year talent was already immersed into the team. McGinnis would not stay beyond his sophomore season(could have been paired up with Downing to likely win it all in Knight’s second season), but he certainly helped Knight get off to a tremendous start.

    1. McGinnis never played for Knight.

      His only year of competition he played for Lou Watson. I believe his freshman year Jerry Oliver was interim coach filling in for Watson.

      1. My bad….My first real memory of IU hoops was Downing at the Final Four against Walton and Wooden’s Bruins ..and I couldn’t remember if McGinnis had one season with Knight previous to that year. I do remember that they were teammates at Indianapolis Washington.

        I did find this….(from HT) which was a quote I remember finding a few times before:

        It pains McGinnis to think what he could have done for Knight’s second team, which went to the 1973 Final Four and had UCLA on the ropes before losing to John Wooden’s Bruins. It was a game that changed dramatically when Steve Downing fouled out on a collision with Bill Walton, who also was in dire foul trouble.

        Said McGinnis, “I remember Steve getting those horrible calls and that all UCLA had at forward were Larry Farmer and Jamaal Wilkes, a couple of guys that were 6-4 and 6-6. No way could they have handled me.”

  3. Not to mention just how much times have changed with regard to our collective patience at all things. We are all built for immediate gratification in a world where information, examinations, debates, scrutiny, etc. is available on a 2-way electronic highway of 24/7 critics and experts. It not only destroys many lives of adolescents far too consumed with mainly seeing themselves from the outside, it breeds a sort of denial on how nurturing something worthwhile requires methods nearly counter/unusual to the growing necessity of a culture feeding on instantaneous review/results.

    Nothing in a garden grows at the same rate….Basketball, like many things these “better” times, has lost its faith in allowing the sweetest of fruits and deepest flavors to mature on the vein/branch to produce the flavors and complexity of a truly cultivated and nurtured result.

    We can have patience….but we’re not built for it anymore…nor do we care to reexamine what it really means.

    1. One 5 star and three 4 star players. Only two of those guys were Top 125 players, so yea it’s a rebuild. It’s not like IU signed Zion, Barrett, Reddish, and Jones. Give Miller a little time to build it up.

  4. H4H ..IM with you ….we forget that 5 freshmen and a grad Transfer…the 4 star hunter out for season after surgery. We were surprised by the mature play of Phinisee but he was sidelined with concussion; as well as Race (and its anyone’s guess when he can develop a chemistry with the team).McRobert’s back is day to day. Then D Davis’s ankle and lower leg problems..those are not excuses when your injury list is longer than the active roster . I think Archie has tossed the towel in on Fitzner( and I have to wonder how Archiw will view potential grad transfers in the future.) Fitzner camr to IU with good offensive numbers and from Hoosier Hysteria to now his numbers have deteriorated. Justin Smith is a track star (high jump) wearing a basketball uniform but he was already here when Archie took the job. What we DO see is literally a group of Freshmen (Minus Morgan) learning to play together and we allowed our expectations to blind us to that fact.

  5. I don’t see any excuses from Archie. The issues pointed out by he and Mike are facts. We are in year 1.5 of the new era and 1 of those were with Crean’s team minus OG & Bryant. Now we have 2 good freshman & a baller (Morgan) trying to pull through a lot of other carryover misfits that should be at mid majors at best. Simple as that. And the early success of this team was now clearly a team playing to its maximum ability….for the most part.

    I think the only ‘mistake’ Archie’s made is keeping these players on the roster. I suspect that’s because they are largely good kids.

    The silver lining I see is that this team never quits. They still play hard.

  6. I don’t read any excuses from Archie either. But I do believe that he’s given up on this team…that is my opinion based on what I see with his body language in recent games after mistakes, and also from his comments in this article, which have changed in tone from the past.

    As for “playing hard”…I have not seen that in the recent past; I have seen players going through the motion and playing as Individuals, not as a Team…I think this group has given up (and hope I’m wrong on that but will need to see the proof prior to changing my opinion.

    If I were making predictions (which I’m not) I’d say this team is NIT bound and losing in an early round NIT.

  7. Basketball is such a screwy game….Nebraska comes in and beats us on our home court and then goes on a five game losing streak of their own. And Illinois handles Nebraska today….Many of you had expressed how horrible you believed Illinois to be.

    Michigan was almost completely shut down at Iowa….

    Kentucky has looked like world beaters for the last few weeks…and, today, they look average playing at Florida.

    Screwy….screwy game. And as much as some believe our guys are playing like individuals and our coach has resigned this season away, I’m not sure if this screwy game of basketball is going to still make many of us eat our words. Never give up….Never give up.

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