BOZICH | For Archie Miller, IU, the road to the top goes through Indiana
Archie Miller had a term for his recruiting strategy at Indiana -- Inside/Out. Start with signing Indiana kids, something that has been challenging for the Hoosiers for 20 years.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – A thousand or so fans drove to Assembly Hall Monday afternoon simply to listen to Archie Miller’s vision for the Indiana University basketball program that Miller now directs.
They came from Indianapolis, Columbus, Martinsville, Terre Haute and Hickory Highs in between. Guys like Phillip Caldwell, who owns a sports bar in Jeffersonville where Hoosier fans gather to watch games.
The board of trustees were represented. Several professors joined the crowd. Football coach Tom Allen sat in the front row, just down from Miller’s wife, Morgan and daughter, Leah. Current players were one row back.
I expected that. But this was the most intriguing face that I saw:
Simpson coaches varsity basketball at Southport, a powerful high school program on the South Side of Indianapolis. Simpson is also involved in AAU basketball across the state.
For Miller to succeed at Indiana, he must succeed with people like Simpson and Simpson’s players. That hasn’t always happened at Indiana the last 20 years, not with Gary Harris, Trey Lyles, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Kyle Guy, Sean May, Josh McRoberts, Tyler Zeller, Trevon Blueitt, Paul Scruggs and others who headed out of state.
Miller does not check the box of the Indiana guy that some wanted as the next IU coach. But Miller made his first wise move toward becoming an Indiana guy Monday by getting a coach like Simpson in Bloomington for Miller’s introduction.
Miller understands the Indiana part of the Indiana job.
You didn’t need a translator to understand the people that Miller was speaking to during his introductory press conference. He was speaking to Indiana kids, Indiana coaches and Indiana fans who want Indiana players performing well at Indiana.
Miller’s recruiting philosophy will begin by chasing every Indiana kid that he believes can play in the Big Ten.
Miller even had a phrase for the strategy – Inside/Out.
Start with Indiana prospects. Add kids from Big Ten areas. Chase the national guys that you believe you can sign. Fill in the blanks with international players if necessary.
“The inside-out approach means that we have to dedicate ourselves to the high school coaches in the state, and they must feel like they’re being dominated by Indiana University,” Miller said.
“You’re not going to get every player. You understand that.
“But if we want them we should have a great chance of getting them because of the commitment level we’re putting forth 24 hours a day at home … But inside-out is the theme.
“I think if you start with the past, you deal with the current and you work hard at those three levels, I think you can deliver what we want because it’s been done (at IU) before.”
Miller didn’t sprinkle many one-liners into his press conference. He was a serious about defining his vision as his Dayton teams have been about playing defense – and the Flyers have ranked in the Top 41 nationally for three straight years.
Miller made certain to recognize the players and coaches who built the IU tradition. He spoke to James Blackmon, Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan and others on the 2017 team, calling them “his guys.”
But Miller hit the point of establishing the Indiana brand and recruiting Indiana kids, getting them to defend and allowing to play an up-tempo game.
I’m not naïve. I understand that commitment level means more than showing up at high school games, AAU events and grass-roots tournaments. Tom Crean, the coach Indiana dismissed less than two weeks ago, did all those things.
Crean signed his share of Indiana kids (Jordan Hulls, Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell and more) but he missed on others, including four Top 100 guys in the 2017 class.
Some say his relationship soured with some coaches within the state. Crean told me several times that he and his staff were unwilling to do things other programs were prepared to do.
Miller’s ability to resolve the issue will be one early indicator to his success and acceptance at Indiana. There are three more Top 100 players in the 2018 class, led by Romeo Langford, the guard from New Albany High School. Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, Louisville and Kentucky have been recruiting Langford for months.
Miller will also have to make up ground with Musa Jallow of Bloomington North and Robert Phinisee of McCutcheon High.
Simpson said that he believed that Miller can navigate the Indiana landscape. Simpson said that he had a good relationship with Miller and that he had heard good things about the work Miller did during his six seasons at the University of Dayton.
Simpson and Miller have exchanged texts since Miller was announced as the new Indiana coach Saturday. They discussed the challenging task of building relationships with high school coaches and players across the state.
Simpson shared his thoughts – and followed up by attending Miller’s introduction.
There’s a reason that Inside/Out strategy sounds familiar. When Bob Knight started his push toward three national titles, 11 Big Ten titles and a Hall of Fame career at IU in 1971, he focused his recruiting on three states – Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.
Recruiting at Dayton is different than recruiting at Indiana. But Miller has experience pursuing the kind of 5-star guys that any coach needs to win in the Big Ten. He did it while assisting his brother Sean rebuild Arizona basketball and by helping Thad Matta chase Big Ten titles and Final Fours at Ohio State.
“I remember being in (Assembly Hall) and feeling the power of this building,” Miller said. “I left saying, ‘I wonder what it’s like in there when they’re really good. I’ve always come back to that.”
Now Archie Miller has come back to that to stay.
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