I’ve never met Archie Miller. Never even spoken with him. But man do I like what I’ve seen and heard from him in the short time since he became Indiana’s new head basketball coach.
Miller has a way about him that’s different from most college coaches, particularly when it relates to recruiting. He doesn’t sugar coat things so that kids feel better about themselves than they should. Miller tells the truth, he’s up-front, and he’s all about business.
“We feel with our style and system of basketball, we can beat anyone, anytime, anywhere, regardless of the venue or time in between games,” Miller told reporters on Tuesday.
Many college coaches — especially in the Power 6 conferences — approach recruiting more as a politician than as a basketball coach. They tell the prospective recruits how great they are, how great they can be in their program, and make promises they know they can’t keep. They walk into players’ homes and tell them and their families what they think they want to hear, whether it’s true or not.
That approach has worked for a great number of coaches — John Calipari being one example that comes to mind. It has worked especially well with millennial recruits that enjoy being pampered, catered to, and complimented.
Miller doesn’t approach recruiting that way. For him, it’s all about the basketball, all about the truth, and all about building a team to contend for national titles — the business I spoke of earlier. Such a method wouldn’t work with some recruits. Say one bad thing about them, your school is suddenly off their list.
But for many recruits — especially in a blue-collar state like Indiana — it’s exactly the approach a coach needs. We live in a society where everything is politicized and where you never know who is telling you the truth. Eventually, you reach a point of political fatigue, especially when it comes to something designed to be fun like sports.
“He’s a straight shooter,” said new Howe head coach Kristof Kendrick, who is also one of the top coaches for the Indiana Elite AAU program. “Kids know what they’re getting and the dude knows a lot and can flat out coach the game of basketball. Kids know and sense that.”
Whether Miller’s approach to recruiting comes from who he is as a person, from coaching at a mid-major school like Dayton, from his older brother Sean, or from some combination of the three — it’s working at Indiana.
So far, at least.
Miller has yet to coach a game, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. At the end of the day, it comes down to wins and losses. We all know that. But what Miller has done so far — I like it a hell of a lot.
Among the first things he did upon accepting the job was get in touch with Indiana’s 2017 signees — a couple of whom were wavering — and convince them that Indiana was still the place for them. He succeeded.
Then Miller started visiting some of the state’s top prospects, letting them know they were priorities for him and his staff. He told Indiana fans during his introductory press conference that he would take an ‘inside-out’ approach to recruiting, and he quickly began showing them how such an approach would look.
By July 17, Miller had secured his first in-state recruit, earning a verbal commitment from South Bend Riley’s Damezi Anderson. Anderson, the 82nd-ranked player in the 2018 class by the 247 Sports Composite and the 3rd-ranked player in Indiana, had other offers from UCONN, Michigan and DePaul. Didn’t matter — Miller made him want to be a Hoosier.
Just over a month later, Miller locked up McCutcheon point guard Robert Phinisee, the 99th-ranked player in 2018 and the 4th-ranked player in the state. Phinisee committed to play for Miller and Indiana without taking a single official visit. He also had offers from Georgetown, Virginia, Ohio State and Purdue, whose campus is only an 8-minute drive from his high school. Didn’t matter — Miller made him want to be a Hoosier.
“He’s a smart guy and he loves to win so he know what he’s doing so far as in recruiting,” Anderson told AlbersAngle.com. “It’s a whole new start at Indiana. I don’t think he was talking just to let me hear what I want to hear.”
Added Phinisee: “He’s very business like. Right when he got the job, he contacted me and he came and saw me. He showed me how he plans to turn around IU and bring a national championship back in. He showed me the offense and I thought I fit perfectly in it. The relationship I’ve built with coach Miller really helped me make my decision.”
On March 25, Miller was hired as Indiana’s next basketball coach. Less than five months later, he’s already locked up two of the state’s top four prospects in the 2018 class.
In an over-politicized world, Miller represents a breath of fresh air. He’s honest, he doesn’t make promises he can’t keep, and keeps the focus on what he knows best — basketball.
Will Miller’s recruiting success carry-over to blue-chip recruits like New Albany’s Romeo Langford? That remains to be seen. But what he’s done so far is exactly what he said he was going to do. You can’t ask a guy for much more than that.