BOZICH | Miller Time starts at home for new Indiana basketball coach
Indiana basketball coach Archie Miller talked about one-and-dones, expectations, the returning Indiana roster and what he's doing differently as he transitions from Dayton to IU.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – This is the way it’s been for Archie Miller over the 10 days since he was introduced as the next basketball coach at Indiana University:
He reports to Assembly Hall at 8 in the morning and departs at 10 p.m. Or maybe a few minutes – or hours -- later. He uses his mobile app to order coffee. It needs to be ready to drink when he hustles inside Starbucks to grab it.
One cup of caffeine. Miller runs on water the rest of the day.
Meals are ordered in, like the slices of pizza Miller picked up and then carried away to his Cook Hall office after he met with five sportswriters late Wednesday morning. He’s made one overnight trip back to Dayton to visit his wife and daughter.
Miller has invested more time in developing relationships with the players on Tom Crean’s final IU team than he has in finalizing every member of his new staff. He’ll complete his coaching lineup later but said it would certainly have a Dayton flavor.
That’s a change from the way Miller established himself at Dayton because what he learned in his last transition is building relationships with his new players is what matters.
“I didn’t drive to Indy and start running around meeting high school coaches,” Miller said. “I sat in the office and dealt with Thomas (Bryant, IU’s sophomore center, who is considering a move to the NBA). I dealt with Collin (Hartman, the senior Miller recruited to return for a fifth season with the Hoosiers) …
“You have to get a feel for what’s going on around you before you start doing things. There’s going to be plenty of time for that stuff … To me getting the lay of the land has been a lot more important than starting off saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do 9,000 things in the next four days and make sure I’m the best at all of them.’ I’m just going to stink at everything if I do that.”
Miller was energized by the model he saw from the North Carolina team that won the 2017 national championship Monday night in Phoenix. It was, of course, a North Carolina team that Indiana defeated, 76-67, in Assembly Hall on Nov. 30.
Plenty of upperclassmen. Plenty of guys who grew up in North Carolina. Several top recruits – former Justin Jackson from Texas and point guard Joel Berry of Florida – who filled in the blanks and upgraded the group.
But the calling card at North Carolina has been guys who grew up wanting to be Tar Heels the way that Miller wants Indiana prospects to grow up wanting to be Hoosiers.
“I really, really believe this,” Miller said “If you watched the national championship game on Monday night and you look at North Carolina’s roster, if you start to go up and down that roster and start to say how did they win the national championship, it’s without a doubt with the best players in the state of North Carolina went there and got older and they had some differences makers, like a Justin Jackson and like a Joel Berry.
“In today’s day and age, there’s a few people who can do it with the one and done, but if you start to look at it consistently who’s knocking on that door, they found a way to get their guys developed, they found their ways to get older and they had guys who grew up two hours from Chapel Hill. He loves North Carolina. Somebody around him grew up loving North Carolina.
“I think that’s a perfect model. Why can’t Indiana become North Carolina, with the same resources?”
Indiana has three players – Bryant, OG Anunoby, James Blackmon Jr. – who are considering a transition to pro basketball. Miller said he was uncertain what or when the trio will decide, but that the three decisions would be announced as one.
He’ll help them investigate their possibilities, ask them to share their decisions when they’re comfortable and adjust from there.
“I’m not here as an adversary,” Miller said. “I am not an adversary. I am not an enemy … my job is to help you get information.”
The other 10 scholarship guys on the IU roster?
“Pretty much everybody right now is on board,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t think that anybody from the first two weeks right here, if we haven’t had more than one or two conversations about staying. And I’ll continue to double back. You can always get surprised. You’ve can always get surprised in the next few weeks.”
Miller will make his first sustained trip off campus Thursday when the next open recruiting period begins. Miller said by Sunday night he will complete visits with the three recruits who signed with IU last fall – forwards Justin Smith and Cliffton Moore and guard Al Durham.
The odds the three will remain with IU? Miller was not certain. He said “50-50,” was the best prediction he could make.
If all this reads like the work of an organized and structured leader, then you’re starting to understand how Miller operates. He’s a determined, persistent methodical guy who won as a 5-foot-10 point guard in the Atlantic Coast Conference because of his preparation and ability to shrug at criticism.
Did I mention that Miller has a plan, a plan that he has tweaked from the plan he used while making his first transition to head coach at Dayton six years ago?
He doubled-down on his vision that he wants the best players from the state of Indiana to play in Assembly Hall. Last week Miller received a pair of endorsements from former IU coach Bob Knight, making him the first of the five coaches who have followed Knight to get that nod in the last 17 years.
Veteran Bloomington sportswriter Bob Hammel was one of the five guys who interviewed Miller Wednesday. Hammel is one of Knight’s closest friends. He said that Knight told him former Dayton coach Don Donoher, another Knight friend, was high on Miller.
Miller knows that for at least the first 15 years of Knight’s Hall of Fame run at Indiana he primarily recruited three states – Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Miller worked for Thad Matta at Ohio State when the Buckeyes thrived with a similar regional recruiting approach.
It’s a Big Ten thing, Miller said. It’s one quality that makes the Big Ten different than the Pac-12 or other leagues.
“You cannot step up to the tee ball field and just start swinging for the fences,” Miller said. “That’s how you miss, miss, miss, miss.
“At the end of the day, 90 percent of the decisions that are being made by the best players in the country starts and stops with distance from home. That’s just how it is.
“For whatever reason I feel like the Big Ten model is different than a lot of places. Success in the Big Ten revolves around the borders of your school. It revolves around the walls of the state of Indiana.
“Kids who grow up and love IU are kids that you find can come here and have great experiences are going to do your work for you 10 times forward in recruiting.’
Indiana has not had many. Noah Vonleh cycled through IU in one season in 2013-14. Eric Gordon did the same during the Kelvin Sampson Era.
Miller said recruiting the elite prospects must be done with …. a plan.
“They’ve got to fit me and they’ve got to fit Indiana University,” Miller said. “To be honest with you, there’s probably only about 10 one and dones and there’s 50 that think they’re one and dones.
“So if you take the 40 who aren’t one and dones but think they’re one and dones, that’s where the problems arise.
“If you’re able to get the great one and done and they’re about winning and they’re truly winners and they’re about playing and doing it the right way, yeah, absolutely, especially when it comes to doing the job in school and then having the ability to come back like Cody Zeller’s doing right now.
“Those guys that are great kids, they’re smart and they’re about winning.”
Winning next season?
That is certainly Miller’s plan. He won’t inflate expectations. But he’s also not writing it off and talking about five-year plans.
“Expectations are something that a lot of people want to temper and if you get off to a slow start, a lot of people are going to give you the cushion to build,” Miller said.
“I don’t operate like that. I want to win now.
“The highest starting point that Indiana University can have, that’s my goal. That’s what I have to do. If that doesn’t work out the best to my favor, so be it. No excuses. We’re trying to start off the highest possible place we can.”
It’s part of the Archie Miller plan.
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