Archie Miller on Dayton: ‘They’ve got a top-10 or top-15 team’

Flyers named the preseason favorite in the A-10, but Anthony Grant says it has to prove itself on court

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant was on his way to the Barclays Center on March 12, 2020, when the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament — and the rest of the sports world — came to a sudden halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant didn’t have to turn around Thursday on his way to A-10 Media Day. After an early-morning flight from Dayton, he pulled up in a car with associate head coach Ricardo Greer, who came to do some recruiting in his hometown, and UD’s longtime director of media relations, Doug Hauschild, just in time to pose with the rest of the A-10 coaches for a photo. The Dayton trio planned to get together for lunch with former Flyer Obi Toppin later in the day in New York.

Explore» PHOTOS: A-10 Media Day

Grant got big hugs from a number of his fellow coaches, especially his close friend Frank Martin, the first-year coach at Massachusetts, after the photo.

Only former Dayton coach and new Rhode Island coach Archie Miller was missing from the shot, though he arrived in time for his media day interviews not long later.

Asked about being back at the Barclays Center for the first time since that sad day, Grant said, “Now that you mention it, it is surreal.”

Grant had the nation’s third-ranked team in 2020. It was the No. 1 seed in the A-10 tournament and had a 29-2 record and an 18-0 conference mark on its resume. Now almost three years later, he has an almost entirely new team — Zimi Nwokeji is the only player remaining from the 2019-20 roster — with just as much hype.

The 15 A-10 coaches and 14 select media members voted Dayton the preseason favorite in conference. It’s the first time since the 2016-17 season, Miller’s final season at Dayton, and the fourth time in school history the Flyers have topped the poll. They received 22 of 29 first-place votes.

Explore» RELATED: Where Dayton has ranked in A-10 polls and where it has finished

“There was a lot of the talk going into this that we’d be one of the favorites in the league,” Grant said, “so it’s not surprising. I think it’s great for our guys to be able to get that recognition in the preseason, and for our fan base, it’s certainly something to be excited about. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you do on the court.”

Saint Louis was picked to finish second and received the other seven first-place votes.

Following Dayton and Saint Louis in the poll were: Virginia Commonwealth; A-10 newcomer Loyola; George Mason; defending regular-season champion Davidson; defending A-10 tournament champion Richmond; UMass; Rhode Island; St. Bonaventure; Fordham; George Washington; Saint Joseph’s; La Salle; and Duquesne.

Saint Louis coach Travis Ford was one of the coaches who embraced Grant after the group photo. It was an emotional moment because it was the first time Ford had seen Grant since the death of Grant’s daughter, Jayda, in the spring. A year ago, Ford suffered a tragedy of his own when assistant coach Ford Stuen died at 29 after an illness.

“I have thought about (Grant) a lot and prayed for him,” Ford said. “I went through something very, very similar to this last year. Ford was just like a son to me. We were together every single day for 10 or 11 years. I reached out to Anthony on several occasions.”

Ford said he hopes seeing fellow coaches and the arrival of basketball season helps Grant. All the coaches had to put their preseason preparation on hold for the first in-person media day for the conference since 2019. The coaches ran a gauntlet of interviews — some broadcast live on the Internet, some for podcasts and social media and others for groups of reporters who got as many as 45 minutes at roundtables with each coach.

The potential of Dayton, which returns all five starters and seven of its top eight scorers, was a big topic.

“I followed last year’s team quite a bit because I had a lot of time on my hands,” said Miller, who left Dayton in March of 2017 and lost his job at Indiana in 2021. “I caught them early in their tough stretch. They were young. I was kicking myself after those games, saying, ‘Man that’s going to hurt them down the stretch,’ and then a week later you watch them in Orlando. Most people don’t understand the secret sauce so to speak. When Dayton shows up in an exempt event, it turns into their event and they took over. It was great to see the confidence build game to game. There was no question they were a tournament team by the end of the year. Anthony’s doing a fantastic job. They’ve got a top-10 or top-15 team again this year. I expect those guys to have a great season. I think that they’ll have a high seed, and just in general, they have a great guy as the coach.”

Three Flyers earned A-10 preseason honors. Sophomore forward DaRon Holmes II, an A-10 second-team selection in March and the league’s rookie of the year, made the A-10 first team. Sophomore guard Malachi Smith, a member of the all-rookie team last season, made the second team. Redshirt junior forward Toumani Camara also made the second team. Holmes and Smith earned all-defensive team honors.

Dayton will try to become the first preseason favorite since Rhode Island in the 2017-18 season to win the regular-season championship. St. Bonaventure was in a similar position last season. It returned its entire starting lineup and was a unanimous favorite but finished fourth.

“I’d rather be the favorite than the guy picked 15th,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “Every game is the biggest game of the schedule for the opponent. You’re going to have that target on your chest. But with Dayton’s crowd and the coaching and the players, they deserve to be the top pick from what they did last year. They’re going to be the hunted. For us, we’ve always been the underdog, and last year was the first year where people started coming at us. We became the big game.”


1. Dayton (22), 428

2. Saint Louis (7), 411

3. VCU, 370

4. Loyola Chicago, 315

5. George Mason, 300

6. Davidson, 294

7. Richmond, 276

8. Massachusetts, 228

9. Rhode Island, 203

10. St. Bonaventure, 194

11. Fordham, 119

12. George Washington, 110

13. Saint Joseph’s, 107

14. La Salle, 63

15. Duquesne, 62

PRESEASON FIRST TEAM: Foster Loyer, Davidson; DaRon Holmes II, Dayton; Josh Oduro, George Mason; Tyler Burton, Richmond; Yuri Collins, Saint Louis; and Ace Baldwin Jr., VCU.

SECOND TEAM: Toumani Camara, Dayton; Malachi Smith, Dayton; James Bishop IV, George Washington; Noah Fernandes, UMass; Gibson Jimerson, Saint Louis; and Javonte Perkins, Saint Louis.

THIRD TEAM: Darius Quisenberry, Fordham; Braden Norris, Loyola Chicago; Brayon Freeman, Rhode Island; Erik Reynolds II, Saint Joseph’s; Francis Okoro, Saint Louis; Jayden Nunn, VCU.

DEFENSIVE TEAM: Holmes; Smith; Collins; Okoro; and Baldwin.

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