Going back in time while looking forward
I know the title of this article could be a little confusing, but I think you will better understand what I’m trying to say if you continue reading. I think would probably be considered an old-timer in a lot of circles, which was sort of the reason for writing this piece. I was born three years prior to Bob Knight taking over as the head coach at Indiana, therefore I literally grew up as he was putting the Hoosiers on top of the college basketball world.
Everyone has their own opinion of coach Knight, and while mine may differ from yours, I think we can all agree that he did what he was paid to do. He won basketball games, he didn’t cheat to do it, and he graduated young men. His tactics, and or antics, will always be widely debated, but the results can’t be argued. Or at least they shouldn’t be in my opinion.
Coach Knight always believed the media shouldn’t ask a question if they weren’t prepared for a truthful answer. Due to his penchant for speaking his mind whether anyone liked it or not, often caused him to being baited. Once his reputation became well known, he would be asked questions solely because the media knew that it would draw his ire. Intelligent questions he answered with respect. Obvious questions he answered with disgust. Truth be told, deep down inside, I think he preferred it that way. I think he liked the persona that he had help create.
He was a very matter of fact kind of guy. He was very intelligent, in both a basketball sense and in general. He didn’t care if you liked him. He did things his way and simply pointed towards the results when they were brought into question. To put it simply, he did things his way his entire career.
Looking forward I can see some of those same traits in coach Archie Miller. As soon as it was apparent that a coaching change needed to be made at Indiana University coach Miller was at the top of my wish list of coaches that I wanted to lead the Hoosiers back to the “glory days” of old. I think most people, myself included, had the same name at the top of their list, but they also knew that he realistically wasn’t going to leave where he was at. Therefore I made my short list of realistic possibilities and coach Miller sat alone at the top.
Yes, there was only a small sample of him as a head coach, and yes, that was at Dayton, but there was just something about his demeanor, the way he managed the game inside of a game, and how he handled the media. You could just tell that he wasn’t in it for anyone but himself, his players, and the university. He wasn’t afraid to get in a players face and let him know what he did was unacceptable. He held players accountable. He was extremely intense. He was ultra competitive. He had a very no nonsense approach to the game. He believed in his system and he got his players to believe in his system. He proved he could coach and develop 3-Star rated players to compete with the major conference schools that had 5-Star rated players.
In other words, in more ways than not, he reminded me of coach Knight. Sure, he has much quieter demeanor than coach Knight, without a doubt. And he is not as polarizing a figure either. But he is a demanding coach. He not only knows the game, but he loves the game. He wants to win, and knows how to do so. Aside from their personalities, the Archie Miller we see on the sidelines is very much like coach Knight in his approach to the game and his expectations of his players. Now, please don’t think I’m anointing Archie Miller as the next coach Knight. After all, he currently sits 747 wins behind the 3rd winningest coach in NCAA history. But what I am saying is this, if you look past Knight’s gruff exterior, and Miller’s quiet shyness, the similarities are almost eerie.
I had the pleasure, albeit brief, of speaking to coach Knight as he entered Freedom Hall for an NCAA tournament game. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting coach Miller. I shook his hand and welcomed him to Bloomington on the morning of his first Hoosier Hysteria last year. Both men, who from a distance can seem very unapproachable, were anything but that. They were both very gracious in taking a few minutes to speak to an IU crazy old man who both times felt as though he was in the presence greatness. One’s greatness can’t be debated and one we’ll have to wait and see. But because at times in coach Miller’s short career as a head coach I’ve felt as though I had gone back in time to my younger days as an IU fan, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. Either way, I get excited looking into the future of the coach Miller era because doing so takes me back in time.
GO BIG RED!