Indiana Basketball – despite mediocrity, lack of toughness, & recruiting troubles – keeping Archie Miller makes sense

Assembly Hall used to be Indiana’s Great Church of Basketball. Now, it’s a just a place where kids play.

Over and over since Indiana’s bizarre and thoroughly disappointing loss to Michigan State, I have tried to write a reasonable and sober defense of Archie Miller and his Hoosiers.

I mention the team’s youth, the need to avoid a death spiral for Miller’s job as he will lose the ability to recruit prior to finally being canned, the $10.5 million buyout – a borderline indefensible expense given COVID related athletic department financial losses, and the remaining four regular season games.  About halfway through, I lose interest in what I’m writing and start fresh.

This time, I’ve really started fresh.

None of the crap I wrote about mitigating factors matters.  It’s all nonsense.  Writing about Indiana Basketball should not be about excuses for mediocrity, and it sure as hell should never be about buyouts.  It should be about winning games, clever offensive and defensive schemes, and recruiting to a culture of toughness and excellence.  Championships should be the goal, and excellence the expectation.  Failure to move toward superiority should be answered by writing the check to start fresh.

The sad truth of Indiana Basketball is that they are mired in relentless mediocrity from which there appears to be no relief.  Since 2016, IU has not secured a bid to the NCAA Tournament.  If not for COVID, they were a bubble team last year and may have been invited.  We just don’t know.  Indiana has yet to post a winning Big 10 record under Miller, and barring some odd and unforeseeable pivot toward greatness, this will be the fifth straight season they have failed in that regard.

Why has Indiana been so average for Miller’s four seasons?

Indiana under Miller has been defined by a lack of cohesiveness, toughness, and development.  All those qualities are shaped by the head coach, and Miller has utterly failed in instilling any of them.  Miller himself talks about the lack of toughness in postgame media appearances.  After four years, I’m tired of the talk.  Enforce a culture of toughness, or clear the deck for someone who will.

Can you imagine any reason this upcoming offseason to buy into the inevitable talk about finally reaching a turning point?  I hope you can.  It will keep you engaged during another long spring and summer.  I applaud your optimism, even if it is based in delusion.  As for me, I’ll side with Shakespeare, who wrote, “What’s past is prologue.”  That means, it is what it was.  Indiana long got by on the momentum of a program built on a foundation of toughness, shooting, and emotional investment.

Right now, Indiana is not tough, can’t shoot, and appears to be ambivalent to its collective responsibility to compete.  There are outliers like Armaan Franklin and Race Thompson, who fight from possession to possession, but Indiana’s overall mode screams satisfaction.

If all that isn’t unacceptable to the people in charge – from Miller to athletic director Scott Dolson all the way up to outgoing president Michael McRobbie – then shutter the damn program and call it a day.

Indiana Basketball is the most important connection graduates have with the university.  Watching every game used to be an inviolable appointment.  We can’t watch students take A211 or H106 exams, so we watch basketball.  The joy and pride we felt for years as the Hoosiers competed has eroded, replaced by frustration which has now evolved toward a dangerous level of indifference.

The sad truth is that auditing freshman as they take an accounting or history test might be more enjoyable than watching a basketball game.

COVID has served a purpose as Assembly Hall’s empty seats were mandated by a need for social distancing instead of fan ambivalence to the Hoosiers as a team and institution.  If not for COVID, those seats would communicate the grim truth that a large swath of IU fans have responded to the team’s muddled and inconsistent effort by choosing another way to enjoy themselves.

The problem with moving on from Miller is that an upgrade needs to be found, and that is a responsibility that has resulted in failure after failure since Knight was fired in 2000.  Trusting Miller to rebuild from his own mess is foolish, but expecting the power structure that has provided Indiana fans with leaders like Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson, Tom Crean, and Miller to hire the next coach is idiocy.

I might have finally hit upon the argument that makes sense for keeping Miller.

8 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – despite mediocrity, lack of toughness, & recruiting troubles – keeping Archie Miller makes sense

  1. Tj

    Unless Miller finds a magic wand and after the first 4 years we know that is not going to happen . Losing is one thing and not competing is another . No excuses for not playing hard . The chances of TJD coming are slim to none . So you have to hope the Duncome kid and maybe Parker Stewart can play some . Also could lose players to transfer portal and Miller is still the coach . Our family has 2 student athletes at I.U. big bb fans they and all their friends no longer watch any games I am sure they are not alone. Callbert Chaney would be a good interview . He gets it !

  2. Tim

    What a bad take. While I agree that IU has been a horribly managed program for 20+ years, in corporate terms IU has been run like “Sears”, I’ll take the uncertainty of a new hire over the near certainty of knowing Archie will never be able to get this train back on the tracks. I also find it amazing that a guy making $3.5M with an awful track record gets such high praises from national pundits like Bilas and Goodman. Must be nice to get that kind of salary and essentially have no expectations. What an embarrassing take from the national media.

    I also find it comical how Glass takes almost no heat from the media on Archie’s contract. What an amazingly bad decision that was…you can’t say “well hindsight is 20/20” because part of an ADs role is to make good decisions that “stand up to hindsight”…otherwise why pay them $500-$600k a year? Anyone can make that excuse after the fact, let’s be grownups.

  3. Archiesgottago

    Yea let’s just give up finding the right coach, do some homework Kent, it took Alabama 8 coaches to replace Bear Bryant. I’m sure Alabama fans were losing hope till Saban was hired. You don’t stay married to your alcoholic wife cause you haven found a replacement yet

  4. Terry Johnson

    Fred was a legend in his own mind ! ! ! He got lucky in football and baseball but blew it with the basketball hire which was the program that paid all the bills . He quickly retired telling himself how good he was. Miller will stay until fired because just like Crean he will get paid crazy money to do nothing which is not unlike what he does now . He had a shot until he lost all the recruiting he had early on and continued to lose games to teams that a good high school team could beat . He has no ability to improve players and the word is out on that as well as his old school basketball and the pack line nightmare when you have a team that plays zero defense! Overall result Purdue is the place to play ! ! !

  5. Bear

    Gosh, could it be that Kent Sterling is taking some points from previous posts that I have placed on this web site? Kent, don’t try to convince me that you are one of Archie’s defenders!

    “I have tried to write a reasonable and sober defense of Archie Miller and his Hoosiers.”

    In fact, you have been one of the torchbearers, up front, with calculator in hand, trying to figure out how much it would cost the University to get rid of him. However, your thought about the previous coaching disasters was spot-on, and I suspect that it came from a previous response that I offered to one of your earlier posts. Hey, I hear that Rick Pitino may be available.

    On another note, I thought that it was fitting that IU’s debacle last night was followed by a retrospective on the 1985 team. This was a team that failed during the 1984 season and gradually came back to win the 1987 NCAA Championship. This was a team led by a hard-nosed, tough, and scorned coach that the wretched media hated.

    I have to ask, Kent. When you say we need “toughness”, how “tough” do you want it? West Point tough?
    Frankly, I don’t think that you or anyone else know what you want.

    1. Mricha

      Miller is proof of the sunk cost fallacy and executives believing in it. It is amazing people still look at what was for what might be. Crean couldn’t beat Wisconsin. Miller can’t beat anyone including eastern Washington, Indiana state or iupufw. Remember those? Cut the cord. Construct better contracts that are performance based. If a coach has a losing record in the big ten for 3 years straight they should get no buyout. I am sure IU has some pretty good business/law professors who could structure a contract to actually benefit the university.


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