WE BACK! I SAID OH YEAH, WE BACK! Big bro TVP and I are pleased to reprise our roles as purveyors of POAPS to the Backing the Pack masses. Because there is nothing that a State fan loves more than pure, unadulterated hope tied up in the form of a coach that we will inevitably fire in 5-7 years. So without further ado…
Today’s possible savior: Archie Miller, who is 38 and in his sixth season as head coach at Dayton. We all remember Archie, the face of the pre-Julius Hodge years of the Herb Sendek era, a scrappy, diminutive point guard who notably led the Pack (along with Anthony Grundy and a young Hodge) back to the NCAA tournament in the 2001-2002 season for the first time since the 1990-1991 season. After graduating from NC State, Archie spent time as an assistant for Darrin Horn at Western Kentucky, Sendek back at his alma mater and at Arizona State, two seasons for Thad Matta at Ohio State and finally two years at Arizona for brother Sean until landing his first head coaching gig at Dayton in 2011.
Important Questions, In Rough Order Of Importance:
1. Has he coached teams that have won a national title, made multiple deep NCAA tournament runs, and/or consistently been highly ranked?
No. However, Archie did take Dayton to the Elite Eight in 2013-2014, has made the tournament three straight years (and is on the cusp of a fourth straight year this season), and has had the Flyers in-and-out of the Top 25 during the last four seasons.
2. Has he built a program from the ground up?
Sort of. While the Flyers have been consistently competitive since the turn-around engineered by Oliver Purnell that began in the mid-1990’s, Archie has arguably taken them to a level not seen under Purnell (who coached at Dayton from 1994 to 2004) or Brian Gregory (who coached from 2003 to 2011). Irony that both Purnell and Gregory left Dayton for ACC jobs (Clemson and GT), but I digress. Purnell guided the Flyers to the Big Dance twice (2000 and 2003) and won one A-10 tournament title in 2003; Gregory also took Dayton dancing twice (2004 and 2009, plus a NIT title in 2010. But Archie’s Elite Eight, soon-to-be four straight tournaments, and A-10 regular season championship in 2016 point to him being more of a builder than caretaker.
3. Has he substantially improved the program from when he took over?
See #2 above but I gave this an emphatic yes. After two winning seasons but no Big Dance in his first two years, Archie has Dayton playing at the highest level since the mid-60s.
4. Has he succeeded at more than one head coaching job?
Nope, only one job so far so.
5. Does he have significant high-major experience as either a head coach or an assistant?
Yes, as outlined above he was an assistant at high-major programs including ours (if it still is one at this point), Arizona State (if it ever was one?), Ohio State (that sounds better), and Arizona. Notably he was an assistant for not only widely respected X and O coaches, but also guys who can recruit (Thad Matta and Sean Miller).
6. Is his team one of the best in its conference right now?
Yep. The Flyers tied for 2nd in the A-10 in 2015 and were co-conference champs in 2016. They are currently tied for 1st in the A-10 this season at 9-2 with VCU.
7. Do his teams actually play, what is this thing called, "defense"?
Side note: I stole these questions from when we were in the process of ultimately hiring Gottfried. Like the pine trees in my backyard, NC State’s inability to play defense is evergreen.
Yes! They do, they really do! Dayton is currently ranked 22nd in Adjusted Defense per KenPom, which is just a hair worse than FSU. Would you take that? I’d take that. And this is no fluke: they finished 2016 at 15th and 2015 at 31st. For comparison, the Pack is currently 225th.
8. So how about offense?
While not blowing anyone away, Dayton has been consistent. In tempo-free stat terms, the Flyers are currently 66th at about 1.12 points per possession. Last year was a little rougher at closer to 1.06 PPP, and in 2015, 1.07. The Flyers average 68 possessions per game, which is pretty average. But they are decently efficient, and matched with their stellar defense, it has been a recipe for success.
9. Any indication that he can recruit McDonald’s All-American-type players?
All-American? Not sure at this point, though he has been in the presence and on staffs at Ohio State and Arizona that did just that. At Dayton, he pulled in a four-star PF Kostas Antetokounmpo over an offer from Florida (and interest from other high-majors) in 2016, but otherwise has seemed to make a living off of three-star guys who were offered by other similarly situated mid-major schools (like VCU, Butler, etc.).
10. Does he have any connection to NC State, North Carolina, or the ACC?
You could say that…
11. Any other random red flags or positives?
Is a connection to Herb a red flag? Some would say yes, others would say no. Some youngsters amongst us would say "who is this Herb you speak of?" Archie doesn’t run the Princeton O at Dayton (mercifully). Given that his teams have surpassed Herb’s best season…I’m not concerned.
Would he be better than Gottfried?
Hard to say. His track record at Dayton is impressive so far – but without head coaching experience in a conference as rough-and-tumble as the ACC it would be a bit of a leap.
Would he be better than Sid?
Yes. (Kept this question just for funsies).
Would he take the job if offered?
Argh. Here it is. I’ve been told that Archie’s dream job is here in Raleigh. I’ve been told that Sean never gave us much consideration last time because he didn’t want to take his brother’s dream job. I’ve been told he would love to come back and coach here and move his family back to Raleigh. There are also rumors that he wouldn’t work for Yow. And there is the inevitable NC State Sheeeeeeeeet that makes me feel like we will inevitably watch a smiling Archie give an interview with the local TV station in Dayton, talking about how he is committed to the Flyers and how happy he is to coach there the rest of his career. I hope he would. It certainly is a step-up from Dayton.
How would I feel if he were hired?
Elated. He has connections to State. He has shown to be a good coach on his own merits. He has high-major coaching experience as an assistant. Outside of the pipe dream of some big name coming here, Archie is my first choice.
How would the fan base as a whole feel if he were hired?
Some skeptics would be clamoring for why we didn’t hire Coach Cal, but otherwise I feel like they would be generally pleased. He would win the press conference, which is always a big deal (at least at first).