UPDATE: IU fires basketball coach Miller, raises money for big buyout

Archie Miller 550 px
Archie Miller was 67-58 in four seasons at IU. (AP photo)

Archie Miller’s $10.3 million buyout was one of college basketball’s priciest.

Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson decided keeping Miller would prove even more costly to the storied program.

Dolson fired Miller on Monday, armed with enough cash from private donations to cover the buyout and ready to answer a fan base angered by four straight mediocre seasons.

“Indiana basketball has a long, rich history of success that dates back generation,” Dolson said in a statement announcing the decision. “Our five national championships and 22 Big Ten titles make us one of the most accomplished programs in college basketball history. I have high expectations for our program, and we have not competed at a level within the conference or nationally that I believe we should.”

That was the case even before Miller arrived in Bloomington.

The Hoosiers haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2016, haven’t been to the Elite Eight since 2002 and haven’t won a national championship since 1987 — the longest drought between titles in school history. Indiana has won just three Big Ten titles since 1993 and it’s now had five consecutive non-winning seasons in Big Ten play for the first time since 1911-19.

Miller was 67-58 with the Hoosiers and never made the NCAA Tournament though many believed Indiana would have received a bid in 2020 — had the tourney not been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miller never beat rival Purdue, going 0-7. The Boilermakers have now matched their second-longest winning streak in series history at nine.

Those numbers put Miller in historically bad territory and were of great concern to Dolson, fans and alumni.

By making the decision before April 2022, Indiana was on the hook for the $10.3 million. If Dolson had waited another year, the cost would have dropped to $3.5 million for a university that has lost millions in revenue, cut salaries for coaches and administrators, and put department-wide furloughs in place.

Dolson knew how it would look to pay that much money to fire a coach. The private donations made the decision more palatable.

“In the days following the completion of our season in the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, I have spent a great deal of time evaluating our recruiting, student-athlete development, leadership development, and playing philosophy and strategy,” Dolson said. “That review, combined with the on-court results, ultimately led me to conclude that a change in leadership of our program is warranted at this time.”

Miller successfully recruited some of the state’s best talent including three straight Indiana Mr. Basketball Award winners — Romeo Langford, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Anthony Leal.

But their arrivals didn’t correlate into consistent success.

Indiana went 19-16 and reached the NIT quarterfinals in 2018-19, Langford’s only season before he declared for the NBA draft. Jackson-Davis arrived the next season and led the Hoosiers to a 20-12 mark that had them on the cusp of an NCAA tourney breakthrough.

Leal played sparingly this past season as a freshman though Jackson-Davis appeared to have the Hoosiers in prime position for a tourney run as recently as mid-February. But the Hoosiers lost their final six games, capped by a Big Ten Tournament second-round loss to Rutgers.

Indiana finished 12-15 and out of postseason play for the third time under Miller.

Miller went 139-63 in six seasons at Dayton before taking the Indiana job, leading the Flyers to an NIT appearance in his first season as coach and NCAA Tournament appearances in each of his final four seasons including a run to the Elite Eight in 2013-14.

Miller’s brother, Sean, is the head coach at Arizona.

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32 thoughts on “UPDATE: IU fires basketball coach Miller, raises money for big buyout

  1. I know a lot of people wanted this but I just hope we don’t find ourselves 4 years later in the same position. This will be the most critical decision that IU makes in a long time. As we watch the now the perfectly “OKAY” Kelvin Sampson and Houston go into the tourney at a high ranking it becomes even more painful. I know there were a lot of Sampson haters but that whole episode leaves a bad taste in my mouth. When he was IU, you would have thought he was the worst person since John Wayne Gacy. Still within a few years he had rehabilitated his image and the rule that he broke was non-existent like before and well here we are. Tom Crean broke his back bringing IU back but injuries and departures and some bad breaks and IU is ready to move on. I think Archie poured his heart into this but the IU basketball program is one serious animal that often eats its own. A few missed recruits and some injuries as well as departures like Justin Smith and there you are. Short of having Brad Stevens saying he wants to coach IU, this next pick needs to be an IU guy. Like Dan Dakich said “this guy has to be an IU guy.” Several come to mind Dane Fife and Steve Alford. Alford has some baggage for sure and Dane Fife is not a head coach but they are IU GUYS and they know what it means to wear that name on their jersey. Chances are though that they will do so with a depleted roster. These transitions rarely happen without some casualties.

    1. Well said Neil. These last two years are not fair to be judged. Yes, we would have been in the tournament last year. This year was “different”. Cancelled games, no fans, etc.

      Archie was a good guy with his heart and skills in the right place. We should have given him another year.

    2. Sampson’s worst transgressions did not lead to his firing – players making their own rules, not going to class, late for team meetings, and drugs.

    3. Breaking a silly rule got Sampson fired, but his character and the toxicity he enabled made him a bad fit.

  2. IU needs to go big with a proven winner. No more hopefuls. These guys may not all be available but start at the top. Stevens, Beilein, Pitino, Alford has proven to be toxic everywhere he goes. Love Dane and Calbert but we need a proven head coach. Someone who will show results before the first season is over. This is still a job that the right coach would love to have. Let’s get it done.

    1. Hmmm, Beilein is an interesting thought. If he is healthy, he would be a great pic as he has won everywhere he has gone.

    2. No top coach wants to deal with expectations like that. The IU fan base is part of the problem. They think they’re up there with Duke (national power) but they’re really UCLA (former national power).

      Either hire an IU guy and lower the expectations for a long while (try a decade)… start with winning recruiting in the state of Indiana, contend in the Big Ten, and build from there.

      Or go for the guy who might have issues, but might win a title with the one-and-dones. But you’re going to have a lot more swings and misses with that approach since you’re starting over every season, and the fan base can’t freak out if they miss two years in a row.

    3. Howard also landed the job when his program was in fine shape. IU is definitely not in fine shape right now.

    1. Nice! Excellent work bringing politics into a discussion about IU basketball, and a terrible political point, by the way.

      Call Chris Beard at Texas Tech and hope he is willing to listen.

    2. Lance, they had to raise 10mm during a global pandemic to fire their basketball coach…

      It is not political to state, we could have cured a disease with that kind of money kickstarting research…

      College sports are idiotic.

    3. The same person/people that paid of this contract, also donate to research and charitable causes. It’s FREE private money that they earned. They can spend it anyway they want!

    4. Matt, that is possibly true.

      At the end of the day, it is a stupid amount of money to spend on a has been basketball program that will go the way of UCLA over the next 20 years

  3. Kathleen, I’m a IU guy through and through, but that is a good one!
    We all know and hope we get the guy currently wearing green and hopefully Cream & Crimson soon!!!
    Go Hoosiers!

  4. People should realize IU is only synonymous with successful basketball only in Indiana now. They’ve become a bit of a joke, not too different than the collegiate version of the Knicks.

  5. So some think the school they played for (in this case IU) is the best criteria to use for hiring a top coach? How many of the HOF coaches returned to their alma-mater to lead them to greatness? That should not be the top consideration. That is what you turn to when you don’t really know what is of primary importance. To play in a power conference – you don’t need coachable role players – you need top talent (sorry Mid-Major success stories). Success in a power conference requires the ability to recruit, manage, and coach elite talent. Three different skills, working with some elite talent players that think, and have been told, they are the next big thing. Getting a coach who has proven he can do all three, and then getting them to leave the program they have created is rare, and would take a level of competency, patience, and money that has not been the history of IU basketball for several generations now… but we can be hopeful.

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