Two of the men who knew Archie Miller best during his six seasons as head coach of the Dayton Flyers expressed their sympathies Monday when Miller lost his job with the Indiana Hoosiers after four seasons.
“He’ll land somewhere,” said Bucky Bockhorn, the UD basketball legend and longtime analyst on WHIO Radio. “He gets after it. He’s not one to sit around. He’s a basketball junkie. I feel for him. I really do. I feel for all these coaches who put their heart and soul into it.”
Bockhorn’s radio partner, Larry Hansgen, kept in touch with Miller over the years. In his book about Dayton’s 2019-20 season, “Bigger than Basketball: The Dayton Flyers’ Greatest Season,” Hansgen wrote about Miller texting him after Dayton’s runner-up finish in the Maui Invitational.
“Man that was close,” Miller wrote to Hansgen. “I thought we had them.”
On Monday, Hansgen said he often sent Miller messages after Indiana’s big victories. Miller would always respond with a comment about how Dayton was doing.
“He was very much in tune with what was happening here,” Hansgen said. “Not just with his old guys. He was still invested in this community.”
This was the first season since Miller left Dayton in March of 2017 the Flyers didn’t have a Miller recruit on the roster. Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers, who finished their careers with the 29-2 team of a season ago, were the last players Miller recruited who remained.
Miller’s Indiana tenure ended after a 12-15 season, the program’s first losing season since 2010-11. Miller was 139-63 in six seasons at Dayton with four NCAA tournament appearances and two Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championships. He was 67-58 in four seasons at Indiana with no NCAA tournament appearances or Big Ten championships.
The Hoosiers finished under .500 in the Big Ten Conference the last three seasons. He finished 33-44 in the Big Ten.
“Indiana Basketball has a long, rich history of success that dates back generations,” Indiana Athletic Direcgtor Scott Dolson said in a statement. “Our five national championships and 22 Big Ten titles make us one of the most accomplished programs in college basketball history. I have high expectations for our program, and we have not competed at a level within the conference or nationally that I believe we should.”
According to the Indianapolis Star, Indiana will have to pay Miller more than $10 million over the next three years to buy out his contract. Dolson said “private philanthropic funding has been obtained for all transition costs and obligations related to the change in leadership.” Miller ranked 21st in the country in salary this season, making $3,350,000, according to USA Today.
Although speculation about Miller’s future had been ongoing since Indiana fell out of the NCAA tournament picture, Hansgen was surprised to see him lose his job after a season transformed by the pandemic.
“I would hate to see any coach evaluated on the basis of anything that happened this year,” Hansgen said. “I think if athletes were getting an extra year of eligibility, coaches should have gotten a pass, too. I knew he had not had the kind of success that was expected by him, for sure, but I think this year was such an outlier.”
Miller is the third straight coach to leave Dayton for a job in a power five conference and fail to make the NCAA tournament in his first four seasons.
Oliver Purnell, who coached Dayton from 1994-2003, took Clemson to the NCAA tournament in his fifth season and in the two seasons after that.
Brian Gregory, who coached Dayton from 2003-11, did not make the tournament in five seasons at Georgia Tech. He is 57-66 in his last four seasons at South Florida.
The firing of Miller also affects five members of his staff who were with him at Dayton. Tom Ostrom has been one of Miller’s assistant coaches for the last 10 seasons. Bill Comar, who was director of basketball operations at Dayton, was Indiana’s assistant athletic director for basketball administration.
Brian Walsh, a graduate assistant at Dayton, was Indiana’s director of basketball operations. Benny Sander, also a former UD graduate assistant, was a team and recruiting analyst. Jack Westerfield, a former Flyer walk-on who played for Miller and Anthony Grant, just completed his second season as a graduate manager.
“Bill Comar’s birthday is today,” Hansgen said. “They’re friends forever. You don’t stop being friends when they leave.”