The beginning of the 2017 NCAA tournament was joyous for Hoosier fans, despite not being present in the field of 68. This wasn’t because of their embarrassing first round NIT loss to 6th seeded Georgia Tech of course, but it was due to the news of coach Tom Crean being let go after 9 seasons and an abysmal final campaign. At one time 3rd in the country, the Hoosier caught the losing bug and couldn’t seem to shake it, finishing 18-16. There’s no doubt, the outcome of this season was mind-boggling with the talent that IU possesses, making Crean’s departure every bit necessary. However, I would like to take one sentence to thank Mr. Crean for his services the past 9 years, as he took Indiana back to the sweet sixteen twice after falling to irrelevant status before he arrived.
Now begins the hunt for the newest coach under the pressure and scrutiny of leading Indiana. Probably the most prestigious job up for grabs in recent memory, the rumors began flying long before Crean was sent packing. Billy Donovan, coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder and former coach of the Florida Gators during their back to back national championships, was the hot name to throw around all the way back to January. Many believe that the departure of Kevin Durant will lead him back into the college spotlight, but I beg to differ. Donovan is an NBA coach of a team that will probably make the playoffs for at least the next five years, even if they are never contenders, and he has the privilege to coach the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double (yes, I know Westbrook has not yet accomplished this, but the numbers for him to complete this say that he will probably easily accomplish this feat). Donovan would have to really rebuild Indiana, and he seemed to have struggles attracting star players even with his prestige at Florida, so I just don’t see Donovan being drawn to any allure around the Indiana job.
It’s no secret that the next coach for the Hoosiers is going to need tough skin. The Indiana faithful are can be tough on shortcomings from the team’s leadership, and the longer another banner in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall seems to be unrealistic, the worse it will be. I think that for this reason, many candidates might find the job unappealing. After this season, a near complete rebuild will be on the table. OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant will probably be on their way after this season, headed for the NBA. Recruiting has become a tough go in this season, and starting fresh could mean that it doesn’t necessarily get better in the short-term. For these reasons, I think the Hoosiers need a guy that has proven that he can build a program, while remaining fairly inconspicuous. By that I mean, that he stays relatively out of the spotlight, and attracts quiet, hard-working players that tend to be sound on the defensive end of the floor.
Thus, for me, Archie Miller is the perfect fit. Coach Miller has led Dayton to the NCAA tournament on a regular basis recently, and even reached an improbable Elite Eight. Miller has disciplined players that can flat-out play, especially on the defensive end, without attracting the nation’s top recruits. As he gains the resources of a Big Ten team like Indiana, and he can pick and chose more talented players for these roles, I think he can thrive right away for the right price. Miller probably won’t command the salary that someone like Donovan or Gregg Marshall would command for moving schools. With Dayton being bounced in the first round of this year’s tourney, I think it becomes much more likely for him to move than those who continue to win, even more so than alumni Steve Alford.
I think this move is easy and makes a lot of sense given Indiana’s needs. Some might push for the luster of a find like Alford or Donovan, but I don’t think the benefit of that outweighs the cost. After Indiana’s blow up, I think it is important to rebuild and get on the right track quietly. I think a tougher non-conference schedule is needed, but without the spotlight that comes with playing Kansas and North Carolina. A more even schedule would go a long way for experience and for the Hoosiers’ resumé.
If the Hoosiers can find Miller and make thesis changes, I see some really good things coming eventually for Indiana, and a restored Hoosier fan base.