This is a continuation of our series of posts breaking down each major hire that IU Vice President and Director of Athletics Fred Glass has made during his tenure. You can find previous and future series entries here.
From time to time pundits around IU basketball have to compare where the program actually stands relative to other blue blood programs to where fans perceive their standing. The two don’t seem to align as often as you’d hope. That comparison became more prominent when Tom Crean was fired in March 2017, ending the long, exhausting final stretch of his tenure.
It also set up the Hoosiers for their first search for a new coach in nearly a decade with the program in far better standing than the last go-around. While visions of Billy Donovan danced around in Hoosiers’ heads, the reality was Steve Alford essentially linking himself to the job before turning down a position he was likely never offered.
Indiana, instead, went a different route than the last hiring, opting to nab a mid-major coach that had been the flavor of the month for multiple years ongoing and also was a part of a successful basketball family in Archie Miller.
Miller wasn’t all that risky of a pick. While he was at a mid-major, his pedigree spoke for itself and he was overdue for a chance at a high-major program. Indiana was in the right position to offer him that and needed to take a bit of a risk to jump to the next level.
In reality, excitement surrounded the hire and Miller said all the right things and evoked all the right emotions as he stepped into the role.
“This is why you want to be at Indiana if you’re a basketball person. My family and I are honored and excited to represent Indiana University in what we consider one of the finest basketball traditions in all of college basketball.”
Even in the best light, though, Miller’s time in Bloomington has been....trying. Excuses could be made for both of his seasons at the helm but the fact is that Miller is just 35-31 through two years and 17-21 in Big Ten Conference play. His highs have been highs, earmarked by a sweep of Michigan State last season and a string of one-possession wins in December of 2018.
The low points, though, are what have stuck out most. A loss to Indiana State to open his time in Bloomington, one to Fort Wayne later that season and 12 losses in a 13-game stretch last season all stick out amongst others.
Where Miller has not had inconsistent results, though, is on the recruiting trail. There have been very few losses with notable wins. Miller has landed the last two Mr. Basketballs with Romeo Langford likely being the biggest recruit for the Hoosiers since Cody Zeller.
Miller has won on the mid-tier prospects, too. Rob Phinisee looks like a four-year starter and keeping the likes of Aljami Durham and Justin Smith in his opening weeks look like moves that could pay off down the line. It’s Miller’s recruiting that has kept the lasting optimism afloat.
In hindsight, the Miller hiring has certainly soured. There’s really no argument against that. The process in which he was hired couldn’t necessarily be argued against and aside from trying a different flavor of the month mid-major coach, there wasn’t a name out there that jumped off the paper.
This isn’t a defense, though, of how the hire has gone. Miller is entering a do-or-die year three in charge which is never a good sign for a new hire. In fact, he could be Glass’ worst hire yet of his tenure, albeit with just two years of a sample size. There’s much more of an argument that he’s the least accomplished.
He’s struggled to apply his system to the team and his offenses have been struggles at best. There’s still time to turn around the ship and make this a successful hire and, for now, there’s juuuuuust enough light at the end of the tunnel for there to be hope. But it’s a dark tunnel right now. I’m enough of an optimist to take a bite of the apple.
Current Grade: C-