The glorious ride continues.
Saturday night celebrating University of Dayton students picked up school president Dan Curran, put him on their shoulders and crowd surfed him down Kiefaber Street in the Student Ghetto to the chants of “Dan … Dan … Dan.”
Some 36 hours later, the UD administration announced it had picked up Flyers coach Archie Miller and was carrying him all the way through the 2018-19 basketball season with a lucrative contract extension.
Athletics director Tim Wabler refused to go into the financial details of the contract.
He did say he and Miller first discussed the extension a couple of days before Christmas and the deal — extending the initial five-year contract the coach got in 2011 — was signed in February.
He said Miller requested the new agreement be kept quiet until after the season so it wouldn’t detract from focus of his team.
But now, with UD’s stirring run into the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 – a place the program hasn’t been for 30 years – the Flyers and their intense, 35-year-old coach are the talk of the college basketball world.
And amidst all that conversation – or “noise” as Miller calls it – there has been speculation that the Flyers coach who be wooed by bigger programs the same way Andy Enfield had been last year after he led Florida Gulf Coast University to the Sweet 16. After the season, Enfield jumped to Southern Cal, a move that escalated his salary from $157,500 a year to over $1 million.
That’s why Monday — a day before the Flyers were to fly to Memphis for their Thursday night tournament game with Stanford — UD officials and Miller decided to make the deal public.
“The deal was verbalized today (because of) all the media out there and the names getting thrown out and a lot of it was nonsense,” Miller said.
He said he wanted recruits to know — same as he did UD fans — that the speculation was not true.
“It’s just good to make sure that everybody knows that this is the place and this is the time now,” he said.
And what a time it is.
Dayton basketball hasn’t been on a national stage like this since 1984. And in these days of social media, the glorious ride is publicized tenfold compared to the way it was three decades ago.
The success helps with morale across campus and the community. It helps with donations and enrollment — Butler University’s NCAA Tournament run a few years proved that — and surely will impact recruiting, said Jordan Sibert, the Flyers redshirt junior guard who transferred from Ohio State and has been one of the stars in their tournament upsets of the Buckeyes and Syracuse.
“This a resume builder for the program,” he said. “High school kids want to be part of a winning program. That’s why I went to Ohio State. I knew they were a winning program. And now, thanks to Archie, you can’t talk about winning now without mentioning Dayton.”
In past years there have been some disappointments with Flyer basketball. The last NCAA appearance had been back in 2009. The school hadn’t been one of the initial invitees into the new Big East and the fan base – though always supportive – was restless for a return to those long past glory days.
“Dayton can be a tough job,” Wabler said. “We have very high expectations for this program and those expectations we haven’t necessarily been able to hit. But Archie and I have the exact same vision for this program … And Archie wears his competiveness right there on his sleeve and now we are hitting them. “
As the February signing indicates, this current NCAA tournament success didn’t precipitate the new contract, but the Flyers success in their non-conference schedule this year — they went 12-3 with wins over Gonzaga, Cal and Ole Miss and lost by just one to Baylor — sure did.
“It’s about knowing when you have the right coach and that became obvious during the non-conference part of our season,” Wabler said. “I talked to Dr. Curran and said, ‘Now’s the time. It’s the nature of the business and you want to make sure we get out ahead of the situation and show Archie he’s the right guy for the University of Dayton.’
“He’s going to be a hot commodity for years to come. I believe we have a coach the University of Dayton needs to keep for a long time.”
Senior forward Devin Oliver agreed:
“Archie is definitely the right guy for this place. He has changed the entire framework here as far as from a mental standpoint. He’s always had the mindset that this (the NCAA Tournament) is where we’re supposed to be. He believes the Dayton Flyers should be a regular NCAA Tournament team.
“He’s got all of us believing it. And that’s going to continue to trickle down to the younger players and his future recruiting classes. I believe he’s built the framework for a continued streak of NCAA Tournament appearances for the Dayton Flyers.”
Wabler said Miller has done that with a no-nonsense, no drama approach that he appreciates. He said that’s the way the coach was able to deal with a depleted talent pool — through defection and graduation — when he took over and the way he got this season back on track after a 1-5 start in conference play.
As for Miller, he agreed to the extension not just because of the added security for his family and the realization of good things that can happen here, but also because of what has already occurred and a sense of loyalty to a school that took a chance on an untested head coach
“I’m very happy here,” he said.” I’m very happy to be at a place that gave me a chance when I was 32 years old with no wins and losses and had blind faith in what we talked about. Our staff loves it here. It’s a great place to coach. It’s a great place to work. The community is unlike any I’ve been in, so I’m really excited.”
This is a loyal, rabid basketball town and that was never more evident than with the spontaneous celebration the other night that was punctuated by Curran’s wild ride above the masses.
Miller was asked Monday if he would have crowd-surfed among the students.
“No,” he scoffed. “They would have dropped me.”
No problem — the way things are going for him right now he would have landed on his feet.