When the University of Dayton hired men’s basketball head coach Archie Miller in April of 2011, the 32-year-old was lauded as a great get for the Flyers program.
After just a season at the helm, Miller has already proven that this may just be the start of something special for UD. In his first season, Miller took a team that lost its starting center midway through the season and led the Flyers to a 19-11 regular season record, as well as UD’s first winning Atlantic 10 record since the 2008-09 season.
Miller also did this after losing arguably one of the best players in UD history in Chris Wright to graduation, as well as promising then-freshmen Juwan Staten and Brandon Spearman, who transferred to other schools. On top of that, the only incoming recruit left after former head coach Brian Gregory’s departure was French forward Alex Gavrilovic.
Now in his second year, Miller says he is comfortable in his position as the head coach.
“It’s very comfortable to be here right now,” Miller said. “It’s a place that’s very welcoming as I said from a year ago getting here, and it doesn’t change. It’s not something I anticipate changing.”
Miller also said that he was pleased with how the community has rallied around his team.
“This is a place that really believes not only that we can be successful, but believes in the same vision our staff has and our players have, which is that we’re going to try and be a program that does special things every year,” Miller said. “I think understanding that everyone is ‘all-in,’ so to speak, is refreshing as well.”
Heading into the year, Miller almost has a completely different roster to work with, including the first four players that were recruited exclusively by him, forward-centers Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson, forward Dyshawn Pierre and guard Khari Price.
According to Miller, he expects all four to have a big impact right away for the Flyers, especially since the team currently stands at only 10 scholarship players on the roster.
To go along with the four freshmen, Miller also added two major conference transfers in sophomore forward Matt Derenbecker from LSU and junior guard Vee Sanford from Georgetown.
Miller expects a much different UD team to take the floor this season.
“Our team is different this year,” Miller said. “We’re much bigger; we’re much [more] physical. We’ve got to have the ball in guy’s hands who can shoot … and those guys around the basket got to get there and we must absolutely take care of the backboard and rebound the ball.”
As for the dreaded “sophomore slump” that is talked about so often these days, only twice in UD history has a coach had a worse record in his second season as head coach dating back to the 1947-48 season. Only former coaches Jim O’Brien (1989-1994) and Brian Gregory (2003-2011) had worse records in their second season as head coach than when they first took over the program.
And for Miller, the possibility of regression has not even crossed his mind.
“No expectations right now,” Miller said. “It’s a different group. We got new guys, young guys mixed in with some returning guys who have obviously been through it with our staff for a full year. I like our kids.”
In the end, Miller is just excited to get the season started and see what his team is capable of.
“They’ve had a great preseason, and our returners had a heck of an offseason,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to put it all together and see the unique roles and combinations and chemistry because we have a room full of guys I think have taken a lot of pride going into the season.”