Sunday April 3, 2011

Cheering a New Coach

A new era in University of Dayton men's basketball has opened with the selection of Ryan "Archie" Miller as head coach.

Growing up as the son of an elite high school basketball coach, Archie Miller couldn’t help but become a student of the game.

He was the proverbial gym rat that coaches constantly praise, an athlete just as interested in honing his basketball acumen by watching film as he was in spending constant hours in the gym working on a jump shot or free throws.

"You’re looking at a guy who, from about the age of 5, had a ball in his hands and hasn’t stopped," Miller said. "In some way, form or fashion, basketball has dominated my life."

That commitment to the sport carried Miller through his college basketball career at North Carolina State, his stints as an assistant coach and support person for five different collegiate programs — which includes his recently vacated role as associate head coach at Arizona under his brother Sean — to his first job as a head coach.

On Sunday afternoon, the University of Dayton announced Miller, 32, as the Flyers’ new men’s basketball coach, making him just the sixth head coach in the last 64 years. During his introductory press conference, Miller shared stories about his formative years in Beaver Falls, Pa., a town outside Pittsburgh, as the son of John Miller, one of the most successful high school coaches in state history.

The elder Miller had 657 wins in a 35-year coaching career at Blackhawk High School, and saw three children — Archie, his brother Sean and his sister Lisa — play Division I college basketball.

"I'm very fortunate," Archie Miller said. "He was a father that shaped me not only as an athlete and basketball player, but at the same time, in how to conduct yourself the right way, how to be responsible and how to, eventually, be successful. I thank him for that."

University Vice President and Director of Athletics Tim Wabler also mentioned that background in his introduction of Miller.

"He's had the opportunity to learn from five successful coaches, including his father," Wabler said. "I believe that Archie Miller is the right person for this time, for Dayton Flyer basketball."

Besides his father, that list of coaches included Herb Sendek, who mentored Miller when he played at NC State. Sendek, who got his head coaching start at Miami (Ohio), hired Miller onto his coaching staff, first as an intern (2002-03) and later as a director of basketball operations and assistant coach (2004-06). When Sendek left for Arizona State, he took Miller along as an assistant coach.

In between those years at NC State, Miller worked at Western Kentucky for one season (2003-04) as director of basketball operations.

Miller spent the 2006-07 season at Arizona State, then worked at Ohio State as an assistant under Thad Matta from 2007-09. Miller next joined his brother’s staff at Arizona, where he spent the last two seasons. The Wildcats just concluded a run to the NCAA regional finals, beating fourth-seeded Texas and top seed Duke along the way.

Noting that Sean was the source of frustration for many a Flyer fan when he was head coach at Xavier from 2004-09, Archie joked about the sudden shift in his family’s loyalties.

"I'm leaving my brother, Sean, whom we all know well in this room," Miller said, laughing. "He’s not a bad guy."

Miller emphasized the concept of "total development" when he discussed his goals for the Flyers. Talk of being competitive in the Atlantic 10 Conference and making regular NCAA Tournament appearances was a given, but Miller said that each player would be expected to develop "spiritually, academically and socially" as well as athletically.

"Develop yourself so you can help develop the team," junior forward Luke Fabrizius said Miller told players when he met with them shortly before the press conference. "It's been a hectic couple of weeks, especially the last couple of days, but we're really excited to have coach Miller here. We're excited about what he's talking about and playing under his system."

Talk of player development comes naturally for Miller. After all, he's a product of that mindset.

"When you grow up in a household like I was involved with, you're constantly being mentored or approached about how you can make people better," Miller said. "It gives you great appreciation for how hard it is to develop kids, not just in basketball, but all the way around."

Find more coverage of the announcement at Flyer Athletics.

For more information, contact Doug Hauschild at 937-229-4390.