Former assistant Allen Griffin on Dayton: ‘This is a special place’

Dayton players and assistant coach Allen Griffin, second from right, watch from the bench in the final minute of a victory against Providence in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 20, 2015, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Assistant coach leaving after six seasons to coach at alma mater

Allen Griffin visited Bloomington, Ind., on Monday to spend time with his former boss, new Indiana Hoosiers coach Archie Miller.

Miller is bringing two of his former Dayton Flyers assistants with him to Indiana — Tom Ostrom and Bill Comar, according to reports — but Griffin is heading northeast instead of southwest. He's returning to his alma mater, Syracuse, to join the staff of Jim Boeheim, his former coach. Griffin played at Syracuse from 1997-2001.

“To go back where I played,” Griffin said, “and spent so many years of my life — and quality years because that place helped me mature and grow as a man — it’s like a dream come true.”

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Griffin spent six years at Dayton on Miller’s staff. He doesn’t officially start his new job at Syracuse until Friday. He hopes to stop by Dayton once more and say goodbye to the players.

“The university, first and foremost, has been a class act,” Griffin said. “They took in me and my family like we had been working there for 20 years. I told (Athletic Director) Neil Sullivan, ‘This is a special place.’ This place is always going to be awesome and always ready for someone to have success just because of the people behind the scenes working at the university. On top of that, the fans are like no other. I say this walking out the door, the University of Dayton fans are like no other. You can put them up against the best of the best. They are going to come and show up and support the Flyers.”

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Griffin met new Dayton coach Anthony Grant last week and sat down with him for 10 minutes before Grant visited 2017 recruits Jordan Davis and Nahziah Carter.

“He seemed like a nice guy,” Griffin said. “Everyone said he was a nice guy.”

Griffin knows better than most what kind of hand Grant has been dealt. The Flyers lose four of their top five scorers. They return three players — Xeyrius Williams, Ryan Mikesell and Darrell Davis — who averaged more than 20 minutes per game. The 2017-18 team will have one senior, Davis, and one player who averaged more than 7.0 points per game, Williams.

Griffin sees the team that remains as a group that will be hungry to prove themselves.

“X and Darrell and those guys, they’ve been around some winning,” Griffin said. “I don’t think those guys are going to take backseats to anybody just because Scoochie (Smith) and those guys are leaving. One thing about the group is they work. All those guys work.”

The most anticipated newcomer to the rotation will be 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman forward Kostas Antetokounmpo, who started practicing with the team in the second semester.

“Kostas, I think he’s going to be OK,” Griffin said. “It’ll be a really big summer for him. He’s got to get stronger. If he can get stronger and add muscle, he’ll be a good-looking freshman out there.”

Griffin still has a few days to get ready for his next job. He spent Monday getting used to seeing Miller in a new shade of red.

“You see him with the Indiana stuff on, and it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s really happening,’” Griffin said.

Miller’s decision to leave Dayton for Indiana didn’t surprise Griffin. He knew Miller wouldn’t leave UD for any job, and he doesn’t think it was about the money.

“(Indiana is) a place where you can compete for national championships,” Griffin said, “and they want you to compete for national championships. If you know Archie, you know he wants to compete for national championships, so this was a perfect fit for him and his family. I think he’s going to knock it out of the park.”

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Griffin recruited Scoochie Smith and Steve McElvene among others. He’ll look back fondly on his time in Dayton in part because of the class that included Smith, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis.

“That first class changed my career,” Griffin said. “If you can get guys to buy in and come for the right reasons, you can see special things happen. Those guys came for the right reason, and we were able to do some special things.”

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