BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Archie Miller speaks Indiana’s language.
He expects the Hoosiers to work hard, play hard and, above all else, focus on defense.
It’s a simple philosophy that resonates with basketball fans in Bloomington. They appreciate good, old-fashioned basketball and a strong-willed coach who likes to stay on message.
“I think I know what we do works,” the new Indiana coach said. “I believe in what we do.”
The Hoosiers have spent almost two decades searching for someone who could replicate the sustained success of Bob Knight. And while there some shining moments occurred along the way, they didn’t last long.
Mike Davis took the Hoosiers to a national championship game before the bottom fell out. Kelvin Sampson appeared to have Indiana on the verge of a breakthrough — until he was fired amid an NCAA scandal.
Tom Crean inherited a reeling program, put it back in the national conversation and wound up winning two Big Ten titles before he was fired in March.
Now, Indiana believes it finally has the right man .
Instead of plucking someone from Knight’s coaching tree, athletic director Fred Glass hired a 38-year-old emerging star whose blue-collar approach and blunt assessments sound a lot like, well, Knight.
But Miller does more than talk and it could pay big dividends on the court. The hard-nosed 5-foot-11 Pittsburgh native who was North Carolina State’s starting point guard before he started coaching has players listening attentively, too.
“He has a different kind of basketball IQ because he was a player,” guard Devonte Green said. “He understands what works and what doesn’t.”
Miller is not afraid to make his thoughts clear.
Those who stick to the plan will be rewarded. Those who deviate from it could find themselves on the bench.
At Indiana, it’s more than just idle chit-chat. Miller’s strong voice is just what they’ve been looking for.
“I think it’s a testament to what he put in place, but I think it’s also a testament to the guys on the team,” forward Juwan Morgan said of the Hoosiers’ eagerness to work with Miller. “If we get the stops all the time, there will be no problem scoring.”
Here are some other things to watch this season:
After missing the NCAA Tournament last season and having three starters declare early for the NBA Draft, there’s a lot of work to do. Miller understands a complete turnaround will take time, so he’s asking for patience.
“They’re not going to be able to do things our way and win right now,” Miller said. “The expectation level for us is to be ready every single day.”
WHERE’S THE SCORING?
Indiana lost three of its top four scorers from last season and has only one double-digit scorer returning. Senior guard Robert Johnson is ready to accept a bigger role after averaging 12.8 points last season, declaring for the draft and then withdrawing.
“They told me was they wanted to see if I could play point guard at a high level, they wanted to see how I handled being one of the primary scorers this season,” Johnson said, describing the feedback from NBA scouts. “I think Archie’s system will help me get in the open court and handle the ball and that kind of stuff.”
Miller also expects Josh Newkirk (9.0 points), Morgan (7.7) and De’Ron Davis (5.9) to score more.
Davis, a 6-foot-10 sophomore forward, doesn’t look the same after slimming down during the offseason. After losing about 20 pounds, Davis insists he’s quicker and every bit as strong. The hope is that the 249-pound Davis will play more minutes over longer stretches and avoid getting into foul trouble when he’s weary.
“I’m a way better player overall,” said Davis, one of only two players on the roster taller than 6-9. “My conditioning is good. Overall, just ready for the season.”
Forward Collin Hartman made headlines last year when he proposed to his girlfriend on senior night. Now, he’ll get a rare opportunity for a second senior night speech. The oft-injured Hartman decided to come back for his fifth and final season after deciding he wasn’t ready to walk away from the game. And Miller likes the fact that Hartman is healthy and can provide a veteran voice on a young team.
“Physically, I think he’s confident,” Miller said. “He’s in great shape, and just looking at his mobility and what not, I don’t think he’s tentative.”