OPINION: Indiana Ousts Miller but What Went Wrong?

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It happened. Another basketball coach ousted by Indiana, exiled to lay in the shadowed graveyard that has been dug since the departure of Bobby Knight in 2000. It’s different this time, Archie Miller was viewed as a homerun hire for the Hoosiers by many college basketball writers, insiders, and even coaches, like John Calipari who praised his hiring, 

“If I were hiring a coach I would hire Archie,” he said in a 2017 interview. “He’s a basketball guy, he’s not afraid, he’s got a fight in him, he’s got a will, and the kids love playing for him. I think he’ll do a great job there.” 

The hire made sense for a program that was looking for an upgrade from Tom Crean. Miller was an up and coming coach that interviewed for the Florida job when Billy Donovan left for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The hype of his hire was real, causing many to believe the Hoosiers were back as he was viewed as a coach who could be the long term answer. However, his tenure comes to an end without ever defeating Purdue or Michigan, finishing above sixth in the conference, and no NCAA Tournament appearances. 

The statement Calipari made, “I think he’ll do a great job there,” raises an interesting question of why he didn’t work out? He had an outstanding resume with the Dayton Flyers, leading them to multiple 20 win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances, even making the Elite Eight in 2014. A rising star getting the chance to breathe life into a dysfunctional, but legendary, program seemed like nothing would go wrong. However, reality doesn’t follow this formula and the great success he had at Dayton failed to follow him to Bloomington. 

His Dayton teams played exciting basketball that was built around shooting the ball effectively, playing tough defense and rebounding efficiently. Free throws were a struggle at Dayton and the same issue plagued his Indiana teams as this season the percentage for the team was 67%. The construction of the team was different from his Dayton teams as they played an older style of basketball that was dependent on big men like Trayce Jackson-Davis. Purdue has used a system like this effectively for years. 

What Purdue does effectively is being able to shoot the ball when they need to. They still utilize big men, but they built a system around a philosophy that maximizes the talent of their guards and forwards. All Indiana did was give the ball to Jackson-Davis and see what happened. This rendered the team to become a dysfunctional, unwatchable mess on offense. 

The lack of player development has been something that has drawn ire from fans during his tenure. Veteran players like Rob Phinisee and Al Durham seemed to still make fundamental mistakes that seasoned players should not. Recruits heralded as deadeye shooters or great scorers missed their mark, like Romeo Langford, Damezi Anderson, Trey Galloway, and Anthony Leal, granted Leal and Galloway were only freshmen and had not been given the opportunity to flourish. 

The lack of involvement in the offense for the freshman hurt the team as they were not equipped to succeed when it was their time to get into the game. Trey Galloway led the freshman class in scoring as he averaged 3.6 ppg, while highly touted five-star recruit Khristian Lander averaged 2.1 ppg. It was a culmination of circumstances that led to the season ending on a six game losing streak and Miller being fired. 

All things considered it seemed the players loved playing for Archie and the staff. Jackson-Davis tweeted a frowny face emoji after Miller was let go. With the recent decision to hire former NBA head coach Mike Woodson, it’s important to see if the new coach can make fans and alums excited for the future. Tom Allen is a perfect example as Indiana fans are excited about football because the energy and passion he brings makes the future of the football program bright.

Miller didn’t drag the program through the mud like Kelvin Sampson did. Rather, he wasn’t a fit for the program and it didn’t work out like everyone thought it would. This shows that fit matters for coaches and programs. Even though he wasn’t a fit, this opportunity will allow IU to revamp its identity, one led by alum Mike Woodson, who could return the program back to where the fans desire.

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