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  • Associated Press photos Archie Miller's experience as a player was a key in Indiana hiring him away from Dayton. “He has a different kind of basketball IQ because he was a player,” sophomore IU guard Devonte Green says.

  • At N.C. State, the 5-10 Miller was an overachiever. In his senior season, 2001-02, he started 42 games and averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals. “Archie is a terrific shooter,” his coach, Herb Sendek, said at the time.

Thursday, November 09, 2017 1:00 am

Miller brings player's view to IU bench

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – Before he was anointed the Next Big Thing in coaching, before he made his first million, before leading a storied program turned him bigger than life, Archie Miller was a diminutive player scratching and clawing to make a name for himself.

In 2017, Indiana's new coach has a pizza named in his honor. In 1997, a 5-foot-10 Miller was simply a freshman point guard at North Carolina State trying to convince the world he didn't need to stop playing after high school.

Some thought he wouldn't play much, or well, in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference. Instead, Miller became an undersized overachiever who started 42 games and averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals in his senior season.

A successful college career is certainly not a prerequisite for excelling at high-level college coaching. Just ask Gonzaga's Mark Few or South Carolina's Frank Martin, neither of whom played past their prep days.

But for Miller, 39, his experience as a player helps illuminate why Indiana hired him away from Dayton in March. Passion, grit, intelligence, work ethic and leadership were all on display at an early age in the ACC.

It's also helped him relate to his new roster in Bloomington. Without disrespect to Miller's predecessor, Tom Crean, whose on-court career didn't extend beyond high school, the Hoosiers appreciate that Miller was an effective collegian.

“He has a different kind of basketball IQ because he was a player,” sophomore IU guard Devonte Green said. “He understands what works and what doesn't in certain situations.”

In five years as a player at N.C. State, Miller was part of only one NCAA Tournament team, his senior year, but it was the Wolfpack's first appearance in the Big Dance in more than a decade.

“I played for Herb Sendek at N.C. State,” Miller said, “and he taught me and a lot of others how to be organized and prepared and ready for anything.”

While he saw action in 123 games in college, Miller impressed everyone after just 32 of them. He averaged 7.4 points per game as a freshman and knocked down 42.3 percent of his 3-point attempts.

“Archie is a terrific shooter,” Sendek said at the time. “He has demonstrated he can make the big shot.”

Indeed. In the first month of his college career, Miller came off the bench against Princeton and nailed a 3-pointer that tied the game with 38.5 seconds left. That foreshadowed nights such as Jan. 23, 2002, when Miller posted 20 points in a win over rival North Carolina.

Still, Miller was most known as the son of a legendary Pennsylvanian prep coach. The NBA wasn't beckoning. A career in coaching was.

Miller accepted Sendek's offer to be a graduate assistant after his time as a player was over, and it took off from there.

Now, as the head man at IU, Miller has just about reached the pinnacle of the college coaching profession. Those players he instructs? He was once in their shoes.

“It relates a lot because he can actually get out there and show us different things, how he wants it done,” IU point guard Josh Newkirk said. “He's real interactive with us on the court, so that means a lot. He played at the college level, so he can teach us a lot.”

cgoff@jg.net