BOZICH | Archie Miller, Darrelle Revis, Courtney Lee & why people like new Indiana coach
Will Archie Miller succeed as the next Indiana University basketball coach? John Calipari and other coaches and media members explain why they like the hire.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WDRB) – The world knows that Archie Miller helped Darrin Horn recruit Courtney Lee to Western Kentucky University. That’s right. Miller was involved in securing an Indiana kid who scored as many points as any Hilltopper ever.
But now that Miller has been named the next basketball coach at Indiana University, if you really want to know the kind of player that excites the competitor in Miller, you should know the story of another guy he tried to recruit to Bowling Green.
This kid could defend as relentlessly as anybody on a high school court. He played with no fear.
His name was Darrelle Revis.
Revis thought strongly about a basketball scholarship at WKU, but decided to play football at Pittsburgh before he became one of the finest cornerbacks in the NFL.
Several years later Horn saw Revis at a high school basketball game in the Pittsburgh area while he was recruiting another guy for South Carolina.
“I figured he probably wouldn’t remember the story,” Horn said. “But he told me that he almost came with us because Archie gave such a strong recruiting pitch that he wanted to do it.”
Horn, an assistant coach at Texas, endorsed the call IU athletic director Fred Glass made to hire Miller, who will be introduced Monday afternoon at Assembly Hall.
Kentucky coach John Calipari endorsed it, too.
ESPN.com college basketball writer Dana O’Neil was one of several national college basketball writers to say that Miller will be an excellent fit at IU. Jeff Goodman, also of ESPN, agreed. Ditto for former Kentucky star Mike Pratt, the analyst on the UK radio network.
Former Kentucky star Scott Padgett, the head coach at Samford University in Birmingham, enthusiastically endorsed it.
“Indiana wants to get back to going to Final Fours and winning national championships,” Padgett said. “Archie can do that. Look what he’s done at Dayton. You put him at Indiana, with all those resources, and he’ll have them in a Final Four in four or five years.
“I think it’s the best choice they could have made. He brings energy. His guys play defense. He can recruit. He’s good with Xs and Os. He’s shown that he can get 13 guys to buy in and play together – and that’s the hardest thing to do in coaching. You watch Dayton play and there’s no doubt all of them buy in.”
At Dayton, Miller’s teams won nearly 69 percent of their games over six seasons. His team won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title this season despite losing its two top big men.
In 2014, as an 11-seed, the Flyers toppled Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford before losing an NCAA Tournament regional final to Florida by 10. The Flyers made the tournament four consecutive seasons. Miller is the younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller, one of his mentors. His father, John, is a Hall of Fame high school coach who won multiple state titles in suburban Pittsburgh.
Is Miller a sure thing?
Decades around college sports have taught me that “sure things” are better recognized five years after they have been hired. The closest to a sure thing in the pool of candidates for Indiana was Billy Donovan, the former Florida coach.
Donovan is less than two full seasons into his five-year, $30 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. A source told me that Indiana asked, but Donovan said he was committed to the NBA.
Steve Alford fulfilled the double-check plus criteria that Glass mentioned with his ties to IU and Indiana high school basketball. But his overall record was similar to Crean’s and the Pierre Pierce sexual assault incident at Iowa was problematic. The record shows that your ability to coach and recruit is a sharper predictor of success than your alma mater.
Sources told me that Tony Bennett of Virginia, not Chris Mack of Xavier or Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, was the other candidate Indiana considered. Miller’s record, tenacity, youth, vision and pursuit of the job impressed Glass during his interview.
Basketball observers who watched Miller during his high school career in suburban Pittsburgh or at North Carolina State from 1998-2002 were not surprised that Miller earned the job at a school with five NCAA titles before his 39th birthday.
“He was a winning point guard in the ACC at 5 feet 10,” said one basketball analyst, who asked not to be identified. “He’s always been the smallest guy in the gym – and the feistiest. He is as competitive as any dude you will ever see. He’s a Miller. He learned early you never back down from anything.”
Horn agrees. Miller was the first assistant he hired at WKU in 2003 – and his first assignment was making certain the Hilltoppers secured the commitment from Lee, who played at Pike High School in suburban Indianapolis.
He did. Lee scored all those points at WKU, leading the Hilltoppers to the 2008 Sweet Sixteen -- and he's finishing his ninth NBA season.
Miller will need to sharpen his recruiting pitch at Indiana. The Hoosiers have suffered their share of whiffs of in-state players for more than two decades, starting with the last half dozen years of the Bob Knight Era from 1994-through-2000.
If persistence was all that it required, Crean would have signed every kid within 100 miles of Marion County. But you must also know which AAU programs to stroke, the high school coaches with clout, the politics of the sneaker world and other – wink -- potholes.
Recruiting is more of a contact sport at the high-major level. Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Michigan, UCLA, Georgetown and others have come into Indiana and departed with the state’s best prospects
Pratt said that he believes Miller will figure it out and thrive.
“I think it’s a very good hire that could become a great hire,” Pratt said. “Archie has the total package.”
Ditto for O’Neil.
“He's a basketball grinder, a guy who loves the grit of the game more than the show,” she said. “He's got a thick skin, a no BS mentality and has made a career out of developing talent.
“I was with Dayton during that (2014) Elite Eight run and that team was a reflection of him as a coach - tough minded, unimpressed with people's perceptions and never flustered. It's a home run for (IU athletic director) Fred Glass.”
I’ll let Calipari, another Pittsburgh guy, put the exclamation point on the decision.
“If I were hiring a coach, I would hire Archie,” Calipari said Saturday, during a press conference to preview Kentucky’s regional semifinal game against North Carolina.
“I say that because, one, we all grew up with his father. Like, his father coached all of us, Sean, all of us that came through there.
“And he's a basketball -- that's what he does. He's a basketball guy, not afraid. He's got a fight in him, and he's got a will, and the kids love playing for him.
“I think he'll do a great job there. I mean, it's not an easy job. None of these jobs are easy. But that's not an easy job either and you have to walk in there wanting that challenge, kind of like wanting Kentucky.
“If you don't want this, all that goes along with it, don't come here, and it's the same with Indiana. You've got to want that, and he did, obviously, or he wouldn't have taken that job.”
Miller took the job. He’ll be looking for the best players in Indiana and beyond – and likely the next Darrelle Revis, too.
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