Answer for Archie rebuilding Indiana Basketball is recruiting to a specific culture

If Archie Miller wants more celebrations like this, he needs to recruit to a well defined culture.

It’s so tempting to bring in the #22 ranked player in a class – a kid who is seven inches longer than he is tall, has a 46-inch vertical jump, and has limitless shooting range – but if he is only interested in NBA mock drafts and the millions that he and his family believe await him in a year, you’re screwed.

Talent isn’t enough.  Talent without diligence loses games, pisses off fans, and gets coaches fired.

Better to build to a culture of hard work and grit than to roll out the red carpet for a self-immersed teenager who buys into his hype.

Indiana University is blessed with unique atmosphere and amenities, and so its basketball program can recruit talent at a level many programs can’t.  Other programs – like Purdue and Butler – develop an advantage by narrowing their scope to other criteria like toughness and competitive drive.

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They embrace a culture, and their basketball programs deliver a consistent result.  When coaches from Purdue and Butler walk into a summer basketball event, everyone knows what they are looking for – tough, smart players who dive for loose balls and defend with tenacity every possession.  They care about winning.

When Indiana walks in, it’s different.  And to be clear, that might be changing under Archie Miller, who has had only one recruiting class so far.  But with Tom Crean as the coach, Indiana’s cultural compass spun wildly from year to year and so did its results.

Noah Vonleh, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Jeremy Hollowell, Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, and others wanted wealth, not winning.  They believed real work was for walk-ons, so IU won two regular season Big 10 titles, but also finished .500 or less in the conference during the other four seasons from 2013-2018.

If Miller wants to succeed at Indiana, he needs to recruit the most talented players who fit a very specific cultural criteria, not simply the most talented players.

Fans have become outraged during the current four-game losing streak by a lack of work ethic – a possession by possession aversion to hustle.  And they are right to be angry.

Indiana still has 13 games remaining in this wobbly regular season, so the opportunity still exists for these neophytes to dig their way out of this hole.  Adversity is an excellent teacher, and the Hoosiers have been served a generous amount of adversity over the past couple of weeks.

The answer for longterm success at Indiana lies in defining a specific culture and recruiting to it.  If Archie continues the IU tradition of being dazzled by athleticism and physical gifts, Indiana will continue to languish in mediocrity with occasional peaks at excellence.

IU is much better served by recruiting the most talented four-year gritty players than those great talents who use college as a way station tolerated prior to a jump to the NBA.

Decide who you are, and recruit to those qualities.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at

11 thoughts on “Answer for Archie rebuilding Indiana Basketball is recruiting to a specific culture

  1. Tim Foster

    Kent, I agree with your article in principle. However I think getting Romeo to come to Indiana was more about getting Indiana kids to stay in state than it was to recruit one and done. If we can get in state kids to come to IU we will get the type of player you describe. Our high schools are full of them.

  2. Steven Brown

    I was really wondering if someone within the Indiana media would get smart regarding how to build a winning program. It seems that we have to go through this learning curve with every AD, coach, and staff that comes around. Yes, I said “AD”, “coach” and “staff” because that is where IU’s problems lie. IU has a very talent group of kids (who can consistently win) , but they lack leadership, and leadership comes from the top.

    Frankly, I would love to see some of the younger players play instead of Morgan and Langford who seem to have their focus on their next job down the road. A lot of Knight’s success in the earlier days was obtained through recruiting kids that listened and “over achieved”. He held his players accountable, too. There are no secrets here. All you have to do is ignore the biased media, review Knight’s earlier successes, and learn from them.

    I am sure that Fred Glass is a very smart person. I hope that he watches and learns. Maybe he should start by taking down the ’76, ’81, and ’87 national championship banners. If the administration hates the Knight legacy so much, why don’t they start fresh and make Miller accountable for replacing them.

  3. John

    I would like to know why Archie honored the letters of intent of Justin Smith, Al Durham and Clifton Moore. Archie did not recruit these kids but they signed in Novemeber of 2016, was he told by Glass that IU needed to honor those letters. Don’t give me any BS about APR scores either, that’s a load of crap. You can get around this easily. Just don’t think Fred Glass has Archies back. Archie should have kept those scholorships or screw it take the APR hit and start with your recruits not Creans, now he is screwed.

    1. Gary Cline

      Agree with your assessment of Smith, Durham, Moore, and I would add Green/McRoberts to the list. With that said, this squad is regressing backwards and much(but not all) rest at the feet of the head coach and his staff. This team is challenged offensively, the Coach appears to be a bit to rigid in his offensive scheme, and stubborn about making changes. Outside of Morgan and Langford, I see no confidence in the eyes or play of the other players when the ball is in their hands. Shots are being passed up, weak screens being set and used, and overall lack of drive and smarts on the offensive end. This team just doesn’t have an edge to it and on the field of competition you better have an edge and a desire to pummel your opponent. Hopefully, for Archie’s sake and IU basketball, the players he is recruiting have the skills and qualities needed to compete and win.

    2. Steven Brown

      I think that these 3 kids have helped the team tremendously. In fact, they should be playing more minutes. IU’s future does not lie in feeding the ball to Juran or Romeo every time down the floor. Right now, we are too “one-dimensional”. I am waiting for Miller to understand this.

  4. Mark Butler

    Agreed, but IU’s fickle fan base will beat on Archie for not getting the Romeos of the world in favor of the 4 year kids. IU fans paint the coach into a corner with recruiting then expect Kent Benson, Calbert Chaney and Quinn Buckner results when IU is just a step towards the NBA for the one and done! Which does the fan base want, BOTH all in one player! Superstar performance with 4 year starter mentality. So manage the one and done, or build, which is it? See Calipari, he’s had one time that it’s worked at UK with a team of McDonald’s All Americans year after year. Would serve IU fans right for Archie to take the next job offered and tell the fans to kiss his ass! Maybe then he’ll be Bobby Knight enough for them?

  5. John

    I think a large misconception of Indiana fans was that Knight took average players and won. Keep in mind there were not ranking sites like today. Don’t kid yourself Knight recruited very well. I was a freshman in 1989 with Calbert and company. Look at that class and think what they would have been rated by Rivals. Cheaney-4/5 stars, Funderburke 5 stars, Greg Graham 4 stars, Pat Graham 4/5 stars, Chris Lawson 4-5 stars, Chris Reynolds 4-5 stars, Todd Leary 3 stars. That’s an incredible class of kids. Just saying.

    1. Steven Brown

      I don’t agree with your “stars” ratings, get real! Cheaney, yes. Funderburke’s head was not screwed on tight enough to deserve a 5, maybe a 1 or 2. Pat Graham a 4, no way! Todd Leary a 3?

      Knight had recruiting successes, but most of his success on the floor involved teaching, something that is becoming rare in today’s game. From what I see today, I think that the ones that really need help are the coaches. Many of the coaches today do not have the skills to teach or inspire their players. That fact plus money produces “one and done” players.

      I think that the NCAA should adopt a concept that initiates a contractual relationship between players going to College and the Colleges themselves. For a full ride 4-year guarantee, players would contract for at least 3 years of collegiate play at their school. A breach of this provision would require a fee from the player reimbursing the school for all recruiting, tuition, board, and legal costs. In addition, I would suggest a fee payable to the university in the amount of $1.0 million from the player or subsequent NBA suitor. I would suggest that this provision be different between Division 1, 2 and 3.

      The NBA has meddled into collegiate basketball, and it is time that they pay for this privilege. Colleges have become nothing but a training draft center for the NBA. This needs to change to preserve a non-professional existence for basketball athletes.

  6. Mike T

    Not sure I see coach miller getting the best out of his players like other coaches in the big ten. Too much watching by players other than JM and RL. Not sure the recruits coming in change much. Think IU has been passed by by about 6 other big ten programs. Over the years and will hard pressed to stand out again. Still will watch and support and hope.

  7. Steven Brown

    Congratulations to IU for a great win against MSU (at MSU). How is it that IU won this game with an injury to Juran Morgan during a critical stage of the game?

    Discounting the fact that MSU can’t hit foul shots, I think that the answer is that IU was the beneficiary of some awesome play from players that were formerly collecting splinters on the bench. Congratulations to Jake Forrester, De’Ron Davis, Evan Fitzner, and Al Durham. Congratulations to Devonte Green, the turnover machine. IU has depth even though it has been faced with multiple injury issues. I don’t think that Miller has understood this in games’ past.

    Right now, I think that the candle is dimly lit for some tournament bid.


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