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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press photos Senior Robert Johnson knows he needs to take up some of the slack after the departures of Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr.

  • Senior Collin Hartman returns after missing last season with an injury to provide key leadership for coach Archie Miller.

Friday, November 10, 2017 1:00 am

IU's faithful appear united for Miller era

Support for new coach strong as Hoosiers prepare for opener

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Indiana vs. Indiana State

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington

Web/mobile: BTN Plus

Radio: 1250 AM, 102.9 FM

BLOOMINGTON – After the controversial firing of Bob Knight in 2000, Indiana endured inner turmoil, the kind of soul-searching discontent that follows the removal of one of college basketball's all-time winningest coaches.

For nearly two decades, the Hoosiers never quite found a coach who could unite their divided fan base. There is hope that Archie Miller, who makes his regular-season IU debut tonight against Indiana State, is Mr. Right.

Scour social media, peruse internet message boards or listen to discourse in Assembly Hall's upper deck, and a negative word toward Miller is about as rare as a Purdue T-shirt in Bloomington's courthouse square.

Bringing Miller over from Dayton (where he obtained all of his six years of head-coaching experience) appears to have been an almost universally well-received move among the IU faithful.

The General is on board, too. In a public appearance in Bloomington shortly after Miller's hiring in March, Knight was quoted as saying, “You folks get behind him, and I think you're going to enjoy some good basketball.”

Athletic director Fred Glass doesn't hide his excitement over Knight's endorsement.

“I think it's great,” Glass said. “One of Archie's priorities is to try to bring the extended family back together again, that is former players and former coaches. The more that embrace what he is doing, the better. Coach Knight casts a big shadow with a lot of players that played for him, and so hopefully that will lead to them feeling even more comfortable to get behind Archie.”

Of course, harmony is easy enough when the 39-year-old Miller is 0-0 at his new school. Results will start to trickle in starting tonight at Assembly Hall, and Indiana State is a hungry opponent that hasn't faced IU since 2006.

“We've got a great opportunity to play at one of the best venues in the country in a great environment,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “Those guys are well-coached. That's the first game for a new head coach in a historic program. It's going to be loud. We're going to have to play fairly mistake-free to have a chance to win.”

What to expect from Miller's first team? ESPN's Joe Lunardi didn't include the Hoosiers in his projected NCAA Tournament field. Hey, they are coming off an 18-16 season that ended in the first round of the NIT, so Lunardi has company.

Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr. left the program to pursue their NBA dreams, leaving seniors Robert Johnson and Collin Hartman as the faces out front. They were part of one of three Sweet 16 berths under Miller's predecessor, Tom Crean.

“We'll be ready,” Johnson said. “We have no choice, really. We expect to win, bottom line. I think we have the talent. We have enough experience with the guys coming back to do anything that we set out to do.”

Talent and experience on the roster matter most, but IU's fan base pulling in the same direction counts for something. Since 2000, that hasn't often been the case.

“We've had some really great moments, going to the final game under (Mike) Davis and some other big moments in IU basketball, but I do think, as I travel the state, there's a resurgence in interest and enthusiasm,” Glass said. “I'm not going to say that is unparalleled since (Knight's dismissal), but that is encouraging and bodes well for the dawn of the Miller era.”

cgoff@jg.net