Archie Miller had taken Dayton to four straight NCAA Tournaments, including an Elite Eight, won back-to-back Atlantic 10 titles, and established himself as one of college basketball's brightest young coaches by the time Indiana came calling in March 2017. He wasn't a sure thing like John Calipari to Kentucky was a sure thing, or like Urban Meyer, Rick Pitino and Nick Saban to anywhere would be a sure thing. But he seemed pretty close, at least in theory, which is why what happened Monday was unsurprising in the moment but nearly unimaginable four years ago.
Indiana fired Archie Miller.
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Even though he had a buyout of $10 million, Indiana fired Archie Miller, reminding everybody that the same people who insist there isn't enough money to compensate student-athletes always have a way of finding it when they need it to get rid of a coach they no longer want. But that's a column for another day.
So what went wrong at IU?
Honestly, it's not that anything went wrong as much as it's that things just never really got going. Miller only signed one top-25 prospect in his entire tenure, never had a team finish in the top 60 of offensive efficiency, never had a team finish in the top 25 of defensive efficiency, and never had a team finish in the top 200 in 3-point field goal percentage. So it should not be shocking that he also never had a team finish higher than tied for sixth in the Big Ten standings. Yes, it's true that Miller would've had the Hoosiers in the NCAA Tournament last season if not for a global pandemic causing its cancelation. But even then, Indiana was projected as a No. 10 seed that went 4-8 in its final 12 games. So it was a team going nowhere. And when you consider that this is the same school that fired Tom Crean one year after he won his second outright Big Ten title because he missed the NCAA Tournament and finished 44th at KenPom, Miller had to know his job was in jeopardy after missing this NCAA Tournament and finishing 46th at KenPom.
And now here we are.
I still believe Miller is a good coach who will do good things in this sport, probably at a slightly lower level with less pressure. But even if he'd been given more time at Indiana, his days were numbered at Indiana because he lost the fanbase. And when you lose the fanbase -- especially that fanbase -- it's only a matter of time before somebody is asking somebody else for millions of dollars to make you go away.
And now here we are.
It remains to be seen where Indiana will turn next. The school will likely at least reach out to Brad Stevens and make him say for the millionth time that he has no interest in being anything other than an NBA coach. Scott Drew is an obvious target because of his success at Baylor and ties to Indiana -- but would he really want to leave a place he's turned into a national power, a place that will someday put his name on courts or buildings and possibly both, for the pressure-cooker that is IU? Maybe. But there's something to be said for leaving well enough alone. Texas Tech's Chris Beard is also an obvious target. Texas's Shaka Smart is probably worth exploring. Arkansas' Eric Musselman would be great. Former Michigan coach John Beilein is sitting in the Big Ten Network studios, waiting for a call while former Ohio State coach Thad Matta is sitting on the beach in Florida enjoying life but probably willing to listen. And though I realize it's unlikely to happen for obvious reasons, I'd love for Indiana to at least consider Rick Pitino, if only because having Pitino back at a big brand in the same geographic area of Louisville and Kentucky would be tremendously fun.
I think any of those names would work.
Which one does Indiana want? Which one can Indiana get?
The answers to those questions remain unclear. But, either way, one of the biggest and best jobs in college basketball is once again open. So now it's up to Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson to make sure the school's next hire is actually the sure thing Archie Miller was supposed to be.