It’s Miller Time

Just over a year ago, we saw how a good pedigree could result in two brothers rising to the greatest heights in NFL coaching.  John and Jim Harbaugh, sons of legendary coach Jack Harbaugh, had their teams competing for the Super Bowl title and their dad, a much-respected football man himself, had the privilege of being the father of the first two brothers to be head coaches at the same time in NFL history.  By the end of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on February 3, 2013, John Harbaugh’s Ravens had prevailed and father Jack got to celebrate for one son and commiserate with his other son, Jim.

We are now seeing the college basketball reprise of the importance of pedigree.  Sean Miller, coach of the Wildcats, had the unenviable task of following Lute Olson at the U of A.  As we know, icons become even more iconic after they retire.  Just ask the line of coaches that followed Bobby Knight at Indiana or The Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden, at UCLA.  Yet in five short seasons down in Tucson, Sean has returned the Wildcats to national prominence and the pundits are starting to wonder aloud whether Miller’s Cats are playing at a higher level than many of the Olson-coached teams of the past.

While Sean was building this meteoric restoration down in Tucson, there was an assistant coach who sat quietly near him on the bench and was assumed to have gotten the job because of his common DNA to the head coach.  Ryan “Archie” Miller worked under Sean at the U of A from 2009-2011.  He left without much fanfare in 2011 to take on the head coaching duties at the University of Dayton, who took a flyer on Archie.

When the University of Dayton signed him, some wondered whether Archie had the resume to take over at a mid-major college that loved its basketball.  Please do not misinterpret this comment; I have nothing but respect for Archie.  He played for North Carolina State from 1998-2002 and, like his older brother, excelled at fundamentals and was a tenacious competitor despite being under-sized. He averaged 85% from the free throw line and is among NC State’s top 10 all-time in three pointers made.  When his playing days ended, he served as an assistant coach from 2003 through 2011 for Western Kentucky, NC State and ASU (both under Herb Sendek), Ohio State (under Thad Matta) and then the U of A, under his brother Sean from 2009-2011.

But it turns out that Archie’s most notable asset is that he is a Miller, and perhaps that is all his resume needed.  His dad, Coach John Miller, is legendary in the high school ranks of Western Pennsylvania.  He led the Blackhawk High School Cougars to four Pennsylvania State Championships and amassed 630 coaching victories over his high school coaching career of 40+ years.  He is also the cousin of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who acknowledges that many of his coaching roots were developed under Coach Miller.  Now Coach John Miller can look with pride at his two sons, who bear not only his last name, but the title of coach as well.

Since arriving in Dayton, Archie has followed the coaching winning ways of his father and brother.  He led the Flyers to their first trip to Sweet-16 in 30 years and has amassed 62 victories in just three seasons, already landing him as the fifth winningest coach in school history.  Archie and his Dayton Flyers have been the talk of March Madness.  The Flyers defeated heavily favored in-state foe Ohio State, coached by one of Archie’s mentors, Thad Matta, and followed that with an impressive victory over previously number one ranked Syracuse.   These two victories have labeled Dayton as this year’s Cinderella Team and has resulted in a five-year contract extension for Archie that he signed earlier today, tying him to Dayton through the 2018-19 season.

Archie’s Flyers are set to play Stanford of the PAC-12 in the Sweet-16.  Do you think Archie might be the recipient of some scouting information from his older brother, Sean, who defeated Stanford twice this season?  I hope so.  While I normally pull for the PAC-12 Conference teams given my allegiance to ASU and the U of A, I will be rooting for Dayton this week over the Cardinal of Stanford in support of Archie’s ties to Arizona and out of respect for his dad, John, and his big brother, Sean.