I haven’t been back in town long enough to consider myself any sort of Dayton Flyers insider, but sometimes that’s a good thing.
Like today I can give you my perception of how the program changed during Miller’s six years in the Gem City.
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In short, he took the program up a notch.
That might sound simple, but it shouldn’t be overlooked because it is not an easy thing to do.
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Where Oliver Purnell and Brian Gregory restored some of the glory after the disastrous Jim O’Brien era, their tenures lacked the consistency of Miller’s.
They also failed to score that breakthrough moment that came in 2014 with the run to a regional final.
Lots of teams from outside the Power 5 football conferences make the tournament every year, and scoring an upset before they go home isn’t rare, either.
But the Elite Eight? Wins over Syracuse and Stanford? That’s heady stuff.
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Of course, Miller inherited from Gregory a team that had won at least 20 games four years in a row, but he only had two NCAA tournament appearances to show for that.
Purnell took over after O’Brien won only a combined 10 games the previous two seasons. He and Gregory made four NCAA tournament appearances combined and won just one game in the Big Dance.
Miller matched their tourney bid total in just over one third of the time and won five NCAA games.
While tournament success is a bit of a crapshoot based on matchups, shooting, officiating, bad bounces and any number of things, it’s still vital to upward mobility in this sport.
Thanks to Archie Miller — and of course seniors Kendall Pollard, Kyle Davis, Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke — Dayton is back on the national map, not merely a team with a proud history and a rabid fan base that makes the tournament occasionally.
There are more steps to be made and the ceiling might still be far away, but that is significant.
Neither Rome nor Gonzaga was built in a day.
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The Bulldogs – headed to their first Final Four this weekend – as well as Butler, Xavier, Creighton and Wichita State had to start their recent ascents somewhere — and with a national runner-up in 1967, the Flyers have something three of those schools don’t.
The Musketeers and Bluejays have never even been to a Final Four.
They’re winning the race at this point in time, but Miller’s Dayton tenure leaves the distinct impression it might not be that way forever.
What’s next for the Flyers?
We’ll have a better guess once they find a new coach of course, but he should have plenty to work with assuming he can hold together the recruiting class.
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