On March 27th, 2017, Ryan Joseph “Archie” Miller was named the 29th head coach in the history of the Indiana University (IU) men’s basketball program. It was well before that date that I personally started thinking about who I wanted to see roaming the sidelines for years to come. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t support the four coaches that preceded Miller in trying to replace the huge shoes that were left behind by Bob Knight to be filled, because I did. But by the time we were well into what turned out to be Tom Crean’s final year, it was apparent to me that to get to the level that we expect IU to be at, a change had to be made.
I think most, myself included, had one, or possibly even two, names at the top of their list. But realistically, neither of those were realistically going to take the job if even the sole reason for that being that the timing just wasn’t right. Beyond that there were all kinds of names being floated around, but one, Archie Miller, kept rising to the top of mine. I had seen and followed Miller’s Dayton teams play since the first time I saw them in action. They were as hard nosed a group of young men as I had seen in awhile, and it was apparent they were a reflection of their coach. They didn’t have nationally known names littering their roster. In fact, you would be hard pressed to name one or two. Yet they kept showing up in the NCAA Tourney and winning some games.
On that Monday in March in 2017 I took off of work and drove to Bloomington to see Miller be officially announced as the man who had been chosen to hopefully lead the Hoosiers back to national prominence. To a place that us old guys had become accustomed to seeing them be. To a place we hadn’t seen them in a long time. That place is regularly competing for B10 Titles, and making runs in the NCAA Tournament. Neither of which has been regular for far too long.
I think the two biggest question marks surrounding Miller were; A) Does he have enough head coaching experience to lead a program like IU that brings so much pressure to win, and win big. B) Can he recruit at the level it will take to win, and win big. The mere fact he was able to convince the returning players, as well as the committed recruits, to stick around and give him a chance spoke volumes about answering question B. As far as question A, while the verdict is still out on the winning big, and big means banners in the state of Indiana, his first two years has shown me the pressure thus far hasn’t been too much for him.
He is instilling a culture at IU. You have to lay a foundation before you can build a house. You have to be willing to not deter from instilling that culture, even through the tough times, by keeping your eyes on the bigger picture. Coach Miller has done that. He and the team have taken their lumps these first two years, but both have stayed the course and may be playing as well as any team in the country right now.
How Miller has handled press conferences from day one, but more importantly through their struggles in the 2019 portion of this season has shown me so much. He could’ve used the numerous injuries that the Hoosiers have dealt with through the year as an excuse at anytime, but he hasn’t one time. He could’ve thrown blame around to deflect it from himself, yet he accepted some of it and continued to believe in his players and himself. He has handled press conferences politely, but is matter of fact and to the point. He is completely aware of what happened in that nights game and hasn’t uttered the phrase “I’ll have to look at the tape” once.
He has recruited the state of Indiana like promised he would. But he is also recruiting nationally. He is not throwing scholarship offers around like they are unlimited, and he is focusing on needs. He wants players that mirror his mental toughness. He wants players that fit his system and his vision. He went into New Albany, IN. last year and got Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, Romeo Langford to come to IU after recruiting him for less than a year. IU didn’t even have a foot in the door of the Langford house prior to Miller’s hire. Heck, they weren’t even in the same neighborhood as the Langford house.
He has since been able to secure Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Aarman Franklin’s commitments to come to IU. As many of you know, Jackson-Davis is a 5-Star McDonald’s All-American and possibly this years Indiana Mr. Basketball. And Franklin is a 4-Star that’s personality on the court seems to reflect that of Miller. Robert Phinisee, who he snatched out of Lafayette, In. last year has that same demeanor on the court. Very workmanlike and tough as nails. That, I think, is the vision going forward. Certain kids, no matter how good they are, just don’t fit into what you’re trying to do and the way you like to do them. Race Thompson, Jerome Hunter, Jake Forrester, Langford, and Phinisee, all kids that Miller recruited fit his mold.
IU was an afterthought at one point, in fact they hadn’t even tried to recruit 5-Star, in-state Forward, Keion Brooks, before Miller’s hire. But Miller now has IU right there in what many believe is Brooks final two with Kentucky. That’s right, in his short time in Bloomington, Miller is going toe to toe with one of the top dogs of recruiting and it’s going down to the wire. With the wire being this Friday night. Hopefully Friday is a great day for Hoosier Nation.
But, no matter who Keion Brooks chooses on Friday night, the best choice for he Hoosiers was made on March 27th, 2017. Archie Miller will lead us where we want to go. Any coach that not only kept believing in his players, his staff, and himself, through the awful stretch of January and February is a coach I want. This team’s psyche was battered during this stretch. He wouldn’t let the quit when they had every reason to want to. They, him and the team, found a way to keep battling and regain some confidence. And as they head into tomorrow’s game against Ohio State in the B10 Tourney with their NCAA Tournament lives on the line, they are playing their best basketball of the Archie Miller era. An era that I think all Indiana fans are going to enjoy for a long time to come. He’s proven to me he has what it takes. He’s what we’ve been waiting for. He’s OUR coach!
Go Big Red!