With the season over, I have no lineup or substitution trends to analyze, so I guess Archie Miller’s introductory press conference will have to do for now.
Content aside, I was struck by Coach Miller’s demeanor.
There was no “rah-rah” speech, not even many smiles, but instead we saw a man who came across as calm, focused, and all business.
That’s exactly what this program needs right now:
- Someone with clearly stated values and a plan to get the program where he wants it.
- Someone who won’t blink in the face of the adversity he’s sure to face along the way.
Since the moment the press conference ended, Miller has been on the media merry-go-round, doing interviews with multiple TV and radio personalities. Maybe a certain post-game show should be next, but I digress.
Throughout the press conference and throughout these interviews, we’ve seen Coach Miller get more comfortable. And we’ve heard multiple variations of essentially the same message.
I’ve tried to soak in as much as I can … and I already wish it was November.
Through all of the answers and speeches, I continue to circle back to Miller’s answer on what values will define an Indiana player, which was one of Alex’s five takeaways on Inside The Hall.
“They’ll embrace high standards both in the classroom, and on the basketball court; they’ll compete for excellence in both. Represent yourself, your family, and Indiana University in a first-class manner at all times. Tell the truth, and make no excuses, regardless of the circumstances. Respect your teammates, take responsibility for their well-being, and treat them as family. Understand our team’s attacking mentality. Pursue relentlessly a competitive edge in all that you do in our program, and focus on team goals more than individual goals. Know your role on our team and take great pride in it.”
I love everything those words embody.
Today’s 3-point shot will focus on the three phrases contained in that statement that resonated the most with me. (Leave a comment below to let me know what statement of Archie’s has resonated the most with you.)
Point 1: “Make no excuses, regardless of the circumstances.”
Look, I don’t need to go too in depth on why this one sticks out after the season we just experienced.
Last year’s team absolutely had unforeseen challenges, but instead of finding a way to overcome them, we couldn’t go a single game without hearing about their impact as if they somehow were a death sentence for the season.
As the discussion of potential candidates began, one of the things that drew me to Archie Miller was his ability to overcome in-season challenges, adapt to a new set of circumstances, and thrive in the face of them.
The first example of this came in the 2014-15 season. A combination of eligibility issues, injuries, and dismissals left Miller with just six scholarship players heading into conference play. Did I mention none of them were taller than 6-foot-6?
Even with a depleted roster, the Flyers finished 31st in the nation in defensive efficiency and went 13-5 in the Atlantic-10. Only a two-point loss in the season finale prevented them from sharing the regular season title. Dayton then advanced to the A-10 Tournament Championship game and made it to the Sweet 16 before being knocked out by Oklahoma in another close game.
The second example came this season when center Steve McElvene tragically and unexpectedly passed away in the offseason. Miller spoke about this on the Sidelines Podcast with Evan Daniels, focusing on the challenge of dealing with the emotional impact McElvane’s death had his team.
It also put the Flyers in a difficult position personnel-wise, as the only two other players over 6-foot-7 on the roster played as much on the perimeter as they did inside. Add to that an ugly ankle injury to forward Josh Cunningham, and Dayton was again forced to adapt to unforeseen roster challenges.
Once again, Miller and his team responded. The Flyers won 22 of 25 games during one stretch and claimed an outright Atlantic-10 title.
Point 2: “Focus on team goals more than individual goals.”
During one of our postgame shows, we tried to put our finger on what IU’s calling card had been during the Crean era. What did we stand for as a program?
The fact that we struggled to answer the question was telling, but the consensus centered around individual player development.
Certainly player development is important, and Coach Miller said as much himself during the press conference.
But during the 2015-16 season, we heard guys like Nick Zeisloft talk about playing for Indiana as opposed to just at Indiana. Quite frankly, I never felt that mantra was nearly as important to this year’s team. But it has to be.
Playing for Indiana needs to be a constant, not something that ebbs and flows, or takes a backseat to individual goals and development.
Let’s take Thomas Bryant from last season.
Much was made of the development of his perimeter skills, whether it be taking part in ball-handling drills or improving his outside shot. That versatility served him well at times last season.
But his propensity to linger on the perimeter was a frequent talking point during times when the offense became stagnant. He could never seem to find the balance between when to play inside versus when to play outside, and that contributed to the team struggling to reach its potential.
To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that selfishness drove Bryant to play the way he did. But I do think he and the team struggled to translate the development of their individual skills into an understanding for how each player’s skills needed to fit together so the team could succeed consistently.
Point 3. “Know your role on our team and take great pride in it.”
Perhaps one of the most telling moments of the season came when Tim Priller entered the Northwestern game and started going “full Brian Sloan,” as Ken Bikoff put it.
In some ways it seemed jarring to watch a player come in and so clearly understand exactly what he needed to do to help the team. And you know what? The team was more successful for it.
When I look back at some of the IU teams I grew up with, guys like Sloan, Chris Reynolds, and A.J. Moye stand out as clear examples of players who knew and embraced their roles on those teams.
Each of them had their limitations in one aspect of the game or another, but that didn’t prevent them from making a positive impact each time they stepped on the floor.
The other team knew Sloan was out there to screen anything that moved, in an effort to free up more talented offensive players. But that didn’t stop him from consistently creating opportunities for his teammates.
The other team knew Reynolds couldn’t shoot the ball well. But he was the consummate floor general, getting players and the ball exactly where it needed to be while being one of the best defenders to ever wear an IU uniform.
And the other team knew Moye didn’t have the size to play the power forward spot he was often asked to play, but he brought unmatched energy and toughness to every game, never backing down from anyone. Just ask Carlos Boozer.
But last season we found ourselves wondering how position-less basketball had seemingly morphed into role-less basketball, and how the team’s play had suffered as a result.
- Who was best suited to run the point?
- Who was best suited to come off the bench?
I’m not sure those questions (and plenty of others) were ever really answered.
Maybe I’m reading too much into a press conference, but hey, it’s all we’ve got right now. Still, these values are at the heart of what IU basketball means to me.
Ultimately these are all just words, and they’re only important if the players are held accountable to them and respect what they represent. Time will tell whether these values are embraced by the players.
But as I look down the roster, I see a number of players who could flourish if they do.
You can read Andy’s lineup and substitution analysis after IU basketball game in our postgame email newsletter, sent only to subscribers.