The chants of “Fire Archie” rained down on the court as IU went nearly the last 10 minutes of its season without making a shot in its 61-50 Big Ten Tournament loss to Rutgers. IU Athletic Director Scott Dolson sat on the baseline underneath the basket with his eyes glued to the court, not once looking around at the crowd calling for him to take drastic action.
On March 25, 2017, when then-IU Athletic Director Fred Glass announced the hiring of Archie Miller, it appeared to be a can’t-miss hire.
Now less than four years later, Miller’s tenure as IU’s head coach has ended.
Miller had just been named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, led the University of Dayton to its second-consecutive regular-season conference championship and the team’s fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
In 2014, Miller took the Flyers to the Elite Eight, upsetting three higher-seeded teams including Ohio State and Syracuse University, before losing to No. 1 overall seed the University of Florida. He followed up the Cinderella-run with a Sweet Sixteen birth in 2015.
Miller was one of the most sought-after coaches in the 2017 offseason and IU won the sweepstakes, offering a seven-year contract that paid him an annual guaranteed salary of $2,250,000 that would increase each year by $50,000, maxing out at $2,500,000 in the 2023-24 season.
In his first press conference as the new head coach for IU men’s basketball, Miller said everything the fanbase wanted to hear. He talked about acknowledging the rich tradition of IU basketball and living up to the program’s storied past. He talked about investing in the players and his focus on developing them.
Then finally, Miller gave his kicker.
He stood at the podium and introduced his “inside-out” recruiting plan, which focused on bringing the best in-state recruits to IU as his top priority.
“The inside-out approach means that we have to dedicate ourselves to the high school coaches in this state, the high school talent in this state, the grass-roots programs in this state, and they must feel like they're being dominated by Indiana University,” Miller said. “You're not going to get every player; you understand that. But if we want them, we should have a great chance of getting them because of the commitment level that we're putting forth 24 hours a day at home.”
While Miller’s words were everything the Hoosier faithful wanted to hear, he hasn’t completely lived up to his promises.
Largely, Miller had been successful recruiting and lived up to his “inside-out” philosophy. He’s the only coach in IU history to land three-straight Indiana Mr. Basketball award winners — Romeo Langford, Trayce Jackson-Davis and Anthony Leal — and likely would have had a fourth if freshman Khristian Lander didn’t reclassify and join the team this season.
But even with the talent Miller brought in, the Hoosiers struggled to live up to the program’s legacy, and the team’s production on the court was far from what fans had hoped for.
Through his four years as head coach, Miller was just 67-58. He never made the NCAA Tournament — though the Hoosiers likely would have been in the tournament in 2020 before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and never finished over .500 in Big Ten play.
After the Hoosiers lost their last six games of the season and were booed off the court in Lucas Oil Stadium, Dolson was faced with a legacy-defining decision in his first year as IU’s Athletic Director: Is it time to end the Archie Miller experiment?
“I'm not entering any offseason wondering, you know, if I'm going to be back. Those decisions are made way higher than me,” Miller said Thursday. “My job is to run the program. We're doing our thing here. I talk to our administration daily, we're in a good spot.”
IU will pay Miller $10,350,000 per the buyout in his contract, funded entirely by private donors, according to a statement released Monday from Dolson. Miller’s buyout includes 100% of his remaining annual base salary of $550,000, his “outside, marketing, and promotional income” totalling $1,850,000 for the 2022 season, $1,900,000 in 2023 and $1,950,000 in 2024, along with his $1,000,000 annual deferred compensation.
If the Hoosiers had retained Miller through the 2022 season and fired him after March 31, 2022, Miller would have been owed just $3,475,000. After March 31, 2022, Miller’s buyout was 50% of his remaining base salary, “outside, marketing, and promotional income” and annual deferred compensation.
IU Athletics announced Aug. 28, 2020, a 10% department-wide budget cut following the decision in the fall to postpone fall sports. Miller took a 10% pay cut this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miller’s buyout of $10,350,000 was the fifth highest in the Big Ten while he had the sixth-worst win-percentage in the conference. The four coaches with a larger buyout by April 1 were Nebraska’s Fred Hoiberg at $22,000,000, Rutgers’ Steve Pikiell at $16,100,000, Purdue’s Matt Painter with a $13,724,999 buyout and Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann at $11,571,310.
Pikiell, Painter and Holtmann all made the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Besides Miller, Holtmann and Illinois’ Brad Underwood also joined the Big Ten for the 2017-18 season. Since joining the conference, Holtmann is 87-42 and Underwood is 69-55.
In 2017, the year before each coach arrived at their respective school, IU went 18-16, finishing 11th in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes went 17-15, finishing 10th in the Big Ten, while the Illini went 20-15 and finished ninth in the conference.
This year will be Illinois’ first NCAA Tournament with Underwood as its head coach, earning a 1-seed and winning the Big Ten Tournament title. Ohio State has made the NCAA Tournament three times in four seasons under Holtmann — would have been all four years if the tournament wasn’t canceled last season — and lost to Illinois on Sunday in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
Miller finished with more than 18 wins just twice in his four years at IU. The Hoosiers finished this season 12-15, their first losing season since the 2010-11 season.
“We had our opportunities, and like I told those guys, performance matters,” Miller said. “And, you know, questions about me and whatnot, that's really not my concern.”
Miller walked off the court of Lucas Oil Stadium for the last time as IU’s head coach flanked by his associate head coach Tom Ostrom who followed him from Dayton, and Dolson, who finally took a quick glance up to the booing crowd before vanishing into the tunnel.
“I have spent a great deal of time evaluating our recruiting, student-athlete development, leadership development, and playing philosophy and strategy,” Dolson said in a statement Monday. “That review, combined with the on-court results, ultimately led me to conclude that a change in leadership of our program is warranted at this time.”
Editor's note: Northwestern’s records were unobtainable since it is a private university. Penn State is shielded from FOIA under Pennsylvania’s Right-To-Know Act, which makes 2020-21 interim head coach Jim Ferry’s contract unavailable as a public record.