IU basketball coach Archie Miller is on the hot seat, but school may be stuck
Indiana basketball's season has been skidding toward a cliff with four straight defeats sending its overall record below .500.
This is coach Archie Miller's fourth season, and the Hoosiers have yet to play in the NCAA tournament. (They almost certainly would have made it last year before the pandemic canceled the event.)
IU concludes the regular season Saturday at Purdue, followed by next week's Big Ten tournament. Will that also mark the end of Miller's tenure at IU?
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Considered by many to be the best available head coach for Power 5 conferences in 2017, Archie just isn’t the right fit for Hoosier Nation and it’s clear he wasn’t even the best (or second best) hire in the Big Ten that offseason. Indiana might have snuck into the NCAA tournament last year, but that being the highlight of his tenure is not cutting it with fans and alums. Will IU pay a huge buyout in the midst of this pandemic (especially when that buyout reportedly drops from $10.5m to $3.5m next year)? Miller has completely lost the fanbase and looks like he is going to miss another NCAA tournament, which especially stings this year with the entire event being held in Indiana (including games at Assembly Hall!).
Maybe the biggest elephant in the room entering this spring's coaching carousel. The Hoosiers, who were headed to their first NCAA tournament appearance under Miller when the pandemic occurred, have now lost four in a row and are likely going to be on the outside looking in at the 2021 NCAA tournament. That means Indiana will not have played in a tourney game -- with pandemic caveats, of course -- since Archie Miller took over in 2017, and that just doesn't fly in Bloomington. With that said, he's owed around $10 million, and it's unlikely the school would pay his buyout without a clear upgrade at the ready. And I'm just not sure IU's top options would be interested right now.
The feeling around Indiana is that things are shaky, but there’s yet to be any tangible momentum by the school to fire Archie Miller for his third non-NCAA tournament season in four years. (Indiana appeared on the cusp of reaching the NCAAs last year, projected as a No. 10 seed.)
The buyout of more than $10 million is borderline untenable in normal times and even more awkward amid a pandemic. Can Indiana’s athletic department can pull off paying out that money and rallying the cash for a $30 million contract — and potentially another huge buyout — to lure someone like Chris Beard, Scott Drew, John Beilein, Bobby Hurley or Mick Cronin? Probably not, as that would take sophistication, savvy and some groundwork that no one has seen any signs from in Bloomington. The backchannels are quiet, so far.
The biggest worry for new IU AD Scott Dolson should be that there’s little pathway on the current roster or via committed recruits to obvious improvement. There’s also not a no-brainer replacement, as hiring the caliber of coach Indiana would want is a high-wire act they don’t appear prepared to navigate.
Archie Miller has been on the hot seat seemingly since his arrival in Bloomington, and Tuesday’s discouraging loss to Michigan State can’t help, but the Hoosiers might slip into the dance behind a top-50 offense and defense.