Dayton Flyers made ‘aggressive’ push to keep Archie Miller

Neil Sullivan said Miller was made salary offer that would have put him in top 10 in nation

“Archie Miller and Indiana finalizing a 7-year contract, sources tell @TheVertical,” he wrote.

Just minutes earlier, WHIO and the Dayton Daily News learned of a mandatory team meeting for Dayton players. They were told they had 15 minutes to get to the meeting. Once there, coach Archie Miller informed the underclassmen — the four departing senior starters were not there — that he was indeed leaving UD after six seasons to coach the Indiana Hoosiers.

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Miller, 38, kept all job rumors close to the vest in recent years as he rose to prominence with four straight NCAA tournament appearances. He said all the right things about the situation he had at Dayton. There was no reason to doubt his sincerity and little reason to think he wouldn’t change his mind if the right offer came, just as his brother Sean did when he left Xavier for Arizona.

That’s what happened Saturday. Miller left a program he took to new heights to take over a program looking to return to glory. He will be introduced as Indiana’s 29th coach, the replacement for the fired Tom Crean, at a news conference Monday afternoon in Bloomington, Ind.

Dayton Flyers coach Archie Miller watches the team practice before the NCAA tournament on March 16, 2017. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: Staff Writer

“I am honored to be the head coach at Indiana University,” Miller said in a press release. “IU is one of the greatest basketball programs and academic institutions in the country and I cannot wait to get started. With peerless fan support, outstanding facilities and tradition, a beautiful campus, and located in one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country, IU is a dream destination for me and my family. I cannot wait to connect with former players, current players, and future players and all of Hoosier Nation. I want to thank all of the great people and players at the University of Dayton who have supported me along the way. I look forward to outlining my vision for IU basketball and offering my sincerest appreciation for the great people at Dayton on Monday.”

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Senior forward Kendall Pollard heard the news first on Twitter and then confirmed Miller’s departure with an assistant coach. He was back home in Chicago for the weekend. He talked to several of the returning players.

“Basically, they’re just sad,” Pollard said. “They don’t know what to do. Trey (Landers) has never been in this position before. I just told them I’m here if you need me.”

Senior guard Kyle Davis was surprised to hear the news, even if Miller departure rumors had become an annual rite of spring in Dayton.

UD men's basketball coach Archie Miller made $1.16 million in 2014. The university increased his salary with pay raises in 2015 and 2016 -- raises that have not yet been made public through the private school's tax documents. UD President Dan Curran said Miller is the highest-paid coach in the Atlantic 10 conference. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: HANDOUT/David Jablonski/Staff

“We knew it was going to happen, that he was going to leave and get a better job,” Davis said, “but we didn’t know it was going to happen this soon.”

Miller signed a seven-year contract worth in the range of $4 million per year, according to YahooSports.com. Evan Daniels, of Scout.com, reported the deal was worth more than $3 million.

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According to a source, Dayton made a competitive offer. Sullivan wouldn’t get into specifics of what Dayton offered Miller when they learned he was in discussions with Indiana but confirmed they made a hard push. Miller was believed to be making close to $2 million this season.

“Without trying to paint a reactionary picture, I’m confident we have a top-10 compensation program in the country in any program, any conference,” Sullivan said. “Ultimately coach Miller made the decision he had to make for his future and in his interest. I can assure everybody it was a very aggressive pursuit on our behalf to see if he could remain our coach.”

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A top-10 compensation package would mean Miller was offered at least $3 million. Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie made $3.1 million in 2016 and was the 10th highest-paid coach in the country, according to USA Today.

Asked if money was a deciding factor in Miller’s decision, Sullivan said, “I don’t want to speak to his motivations, but I’m quite confident it wasn’t about increased compensation.”

Miller finished his tenure with a mark of 139-63 (.688). He ranks fifth in school history in victories, winning percentage and games coached.

Dayton’s Neil Sullivan talks to reporters on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at UD’s Frericks Center. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: Staff Writer

“Although the university is saddened by Archie’s departure, we are grateful for his tenacity and the support he provided our student-athletes on and off the court,” UD President Eric F. Spina said. “We appreciate Archie’s contributions in strengthening our program and returning it to national visibility, and we wish Archie and (his wife) Morgan well. This is a great basketball program in a great basketball town and we will hire a great coach to build on that tradition.”

The search for the next coach begins immediately. Sullivan reached out to the five incoming Dayton recruits, four of whom have signed national letters of intent, hoping to reassure them about their futures at UD. Keeping them in the program will be one reason to move quickly with the search.

“There are benefits to being sooner rather than later,” Sullivan said, “but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do the best you can and you’ve got to get it right. We will be deliberate. We will be intentional. We will be very methodical to make sure we find someone who will represent this university in the right way.”

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