Just a day after Selection Sunday, when the Indiana men’s basketball program received the inevitable news that it would be an NCAA Tournament spectator for the fifth straight year, the university decided it was time for a seismic change.
Early Monday afternoon Stadium insider Jeff Goodman tweeted that Indiana coach Archie Miller had been fired. Not long after, Indiana University Director of Athletics Scott Dolson made the decision official.
“In the days following the completion of our season in the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, I have spent a great deal of time evaluating our recruiting, student-athlete development, leadership development, and playing philosophy and strategy,” Dolson said in a press release. “That review, combined with the on-court results, ultimately led me to conclude that a change in leadership of our program is warranted at this time."
Throughout the rest of the press release, Dolson went on to cite that the main reason for the firing of Miller was the underwhelming results in his four years and how it was not representative of the success that Dolson sees necessary for the historically successful program.
Miller is coming off his worst year at the helm at Indiana, going 12-15, and ending the year on a six-game losing streak. In his entire Indiana tenure, he accumulated a record of 67-58 with no NCAA Tournament appearances and one NIT appearance in 2019.
With the team’s collapse at the end of the season and the NCAA Tournament becoming more and more elusive, Miller’s future became more and more questionable. Perhaps bigger than if Miller would be fired, was if it was even possible with the plus $10 million buyout left on his contract that the university would have to shell out.
Dolson sought out outside funding and got the necessary means.
“Given the university’s very tight financial situation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, private philanthropic funding has been obtained for all transition costs and obligations related to the change in leadership,” Dolson said of the situation. “We worked to secure the necessary private support following my recommendation to President (Michael) McRobbie, ensuring that there would be no charges to the university budget.”
With Miller now officially out, it’s time to reflect. How did it get to this?
No matter how dedicated of a coach Miller was to the program, it just never seemed to be the right fit between both parties.
Other than his first season in Bloomington where he inherited a brand new group, every one of Miller's teams was expected to at least be a definite NCAA Tournament team, if not more than that.
That never came to fruition, though, as Indiana found itself in the same spot by the end of every season year after year – The Bubble.
How they got there was different each year, but it always ended in the same result – missing the NCAA Tournament.
In 2019, Indiana was the fourth team out from making the Big Dance with a 17-14 regular season and conference tournament combined record. The 2020 season is a bit unfair to judge as the Hoosiers looked to be in the field of 68 as a 10 or 11 seed if the tournament hadn’t been canceled due to the initial outbreak of COVID-19.
In 2021, expectations were the highest of Miller in his time at IU. He had a full team of highly touted players whom he recruited, and it was the fourth year on the job. Miller needed a breakthrough this year to prove himself, and it never happened.
As Miller’s teams improved in overall talent and chemistry year after year, but could never break through as more than a borderline NCAA Tournament team and one at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, it became clear that the situation was not going to work.
There were some key moments and records throughout the years that indicated that the Miller-Indiana connection was never a fit for the immensely high expectations at Indiana:
- 2017-2018: Two home losses by more than 20 points each to Indiana State and Purdue Fort Wayne
- 2018-2019: Started out 12-2, then lost 12 of 13 Big Ten games to put Indiana firmly out of the NCAA Tournament picture before making a failed last ditch run despite having a five-star, top ten recruit in Romeo Langford and accomplished senior Juwan Morgan leading the team.
- 2019-2020: Wild inconsistencies where the team looked like two different products night in and night out, such as a 16-point home win over No. 17 Florida State followed by a 20-point road loss at Wisconsin the next game.
- 2020-2021: Wild inconsistency again, never putting together more than a two-game win streak all year (which only happened four times and twice in Big Ten play). Furthermore, Indiana only beat one team all season who finished better than eighth in the Big Ten standings.
There were a couple of big-picture stats that encapsulated Miller’s time at Indiana that were perhaps too much to let pass for Dolson as well:
- No NCAA Tournament appearances in four years
- No Big Ten finish better than 9-11 in four years
- An 0-7 record to rival Purdue
Underwhelming with real talent that also never developed
Another huge knock on Miller’s resume was how his recruiting never turned into legitimate player development.
It’s fair to say that Miller didn’t inherit much when he arrived in Bloomington in 2017, but from there he hit the recruiting trail hard and did find great success.
He got a number of highly touted players who never had any serious off-the-court issues.
His first recruiting class in 2018 was considered a consensus top ten group nationally that featured three four-star prospects, a three-star who was in the top 150, and the crown jewel was five-star Langford, a top 10 player, Indiana Mr. Basketball, and a McDonald’s All-American from New Albany, Indiana.
Landing Langford was a gigantic victory for Miller, and in that class he got two other in-state recruits in Rob Phinisee and Damezi Anderson. Recruiting the state was something that won over the fanbase quickly and was a struggle for previous coach Tom Crean.
In 2019, he garnered a top-six class in the Big Ten with two in-state commitments from McDonald’s All-American and Indiana Mr. Basketball Trayce Jackson-Davis and three-star Armaan Franklin. In 2020, he got a five-star in-state reclassification in Khristian Lander, a third straight Indiana Mr. Basketball in Anthony Leal, another in-state standout in Trey Galloway and top 150 prospect Jordan Geronimo from the east coast.
With this hefty load of talent and a plethora of it coming from within the state of Indiana, the expectations were for Miller’s squad to flourish, but it never came close to making substantial improvement.
Most of the guys never became what was expected of them and their high status they were given as prospects in high school. There are few examples such as Franklin, Race Thompson, and Jackson-Davis whose statistics show serious growth from year-to-year, but many players plateaued at the same level of production every year in their time at Indiana.
The lack of player development was telling and obvious over the four-year span and it left Indiana stuck in the bottom-half of the Big Ten every year.
Much of the untapped potential of the players can be pinned to the team’s offensive approach. It never clicked and it never had consistent success within Big Ten play.
This season, Indiana’s 70.4 points per game average ranked No. 9 in the Big Ten. When removing the non-conference games, the team average was at 68.5 points per game, which if reranked, would place them at dead last at No. 14.
Here are the previous scoring averages while under Miller:
- 19-20: 69.7 points per game
- 18-19: 71.5 points per game
- 17-18: 71.9 points per game
Now that Indiana has officially moved on from Miller, the immediate question is who will replace him.
For a fanbase as dedicated and wild, as Indiana’s, heavy speculation has already emerged in a few different directions.
Names like Brad Stevens, Scott Drew, Chris Beard, John Beilein, and Rick Pitino have been tossed out as possibilities. All of those to this point are purely just fans’ desires, though.
There has yet to be serious traction known to The Hoosier Network of a particular target or two that Indiana is prioritizing to this point.
What is known is that the process has been underway silently for some time now.
“While I will not establish a formal search committee, I will consult within the University and with trusted experts in the state and around the country as I seek out and recruit a new coach,” Dolson said. The work to find the next leader of Indiana Basketball will begin immediately, and I will seek a chief executive that I can partner with to reestablish the brand and national presence of Indiana Basketball.”
With no formal search committee, that could be indication that Dolson may have a target or a few targets in mind and that he is already pursuing.
Whoever is the new coach, they’ll have to try and retain as many of the current players as possible while looking to reestablish on the Indiana on the recruiting trail both with transfers and high school prospects.
So far, freshmen Anthony Leal and Trey Galloway have said that they are not leaving. Jackson-Davis is undecided, and Al Durham is in the transfer portal.
The status of class of 2021 recruit Logan Duncomb and 2022 commit CJ Gunn are unknown.
As the men’s NCAA Tournament takes place completely in the state of Indiana over the next month, and some of it in Bloomington, there will just be as much action going on around the non-participating Indiana Hoosiers.