Doyel: Under Archie Miller, IU does one thing consistently — disappoint the hell out of you.

Gregg Doyel
Indianapolis Star

Thank God it’s over. This IU basketball season, I mean. What else is there to say? The 2020-21 Hoosiers were put out of their misery Thursday night in the Big Ten Tournament, eliminated 61-50 by Rutgers in a game that had even the most diehard IU fans — the ones who spent actual American dollars to watch this team play in a mostly empty football stadium — booing the players and trolling the coach:

Fire Archie!

Fire Archie!

Insider:IU's season is over. An offseason full of questions is just getting started.

That could be over, too. Archie Miller’s tenure as IU coach, I mean. In a normal year, which this most certainly is not, he’d have been fired by the time you finished this sentence. The coach at IU going 0-7 against Purdue, and in his fourth year in the program having constructing a team that lost three times in six weeks to Rutgers? That’s so absurd, I’m looking over my shoulder, thinking I should be fired for even writing that sentence. Because it’s the most impossible sentence ever. Can’t be true. And yet…

Here comes another impossible sentence: IU missed its final 13 shots of the season.

Another: IU scored two points in the final 10 minutes of the season.

Another: IU missed eight of its final 10 free throws of the season.

Here’s the thing. If you’ve been watching this joyless program, you’re not even surprised anymore. IU basketball, under Archie Miller, has reached the point where it does just one thing consistently well:

Disappoints the hell out of you.

Can IU afford Archie Miller's $10 million buyout?

Archie Miller didn’t hear you, by the way. That’s what he says. Were you in the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium, sarcastically cheering Al Durham’s two made free throws with 2:35 left, the only two free throws the Hoosiers made in the final 31 minutes? Was that you, booing after Rob Phinisee missed the front end of two one-and-one foul situations in the final two minutes, walling off any shot at victory with two bricks?

Were you the one leading the “Fire Archie” chant?

He didn’t hear you.

“I didn’t hear the fans say anything,” Archie was telling me afterward, when I asked as gently as I could — there’s really no gentle way to ask — if he’d heard the fans calling for his job. “If they were chanting my name, that’s up to them.”

I set up my next question by referencing his job status and how it will dominate this offseason, one way or another, until the IU administration says or does … something. Then I’m saying he’s never entered an offseason having to wonder about his job security, but is that how he’ll enter this one?

“I’m not entering any offseason wondering if I’m going to be back,” he said. “Those decisions are made way higher than me. My job is to run the program. I talk to our administration daily. We’re in a good spot (but) didn’t capitalize on opportunities this year.”

Obviously they’re not in a good spot. The Hoosiers went 12-15 this season, losing their last six games, and there was nothing fluky about it. Well, other than those two wins against Iowa. No idea how the Hoosiers did that.

Going into next season, IU probably will lose senior Al Durham, could lose sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis to the 2021 NBA draft, and there’s just no telling what else might happen. This was a joyless year, I’m telling you.

Indiana Hoosiers head coach Archie Miller calls out plays against Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Thursday, March 11, 2021, during the men's Big Ten basketball tournament from Lucas Oil Stadium. Indiana lost 50-61.

So is IU in a good spot? No. It’s terrible, because the Hoosiers clearly need a new coach, but just as clearly lack the resources to make that happen. Buy out Miller for $10 million? Then hire someone else, with the going rate for a great coach pushing $5 million annually? IU doesn’t have that kind of money most years, and certainly not after a season with no fans in the seats.

Fans were in the building Thursday night.

That was fun.

Insider:Archie Miller's $10 million buyout makes decision on his IU future trickier than it seems

This isn't just an Archie problem

Enough about Archie. He recruited this team, he coaches this team, he’s responsible for this team. But the problem with IU basketball is not binary. It’s not a choice between coach or players. It’s both. It’s and.

The players went 6-for-15 from the foul line (40%), including a ridiculous 2-for-10 to end the game. The players went 2-for-16 on 3-pointers (12.5%), including a ridiculous 0-for-11 to end the game. The players were outrebounded by Rutgers 41-33.

Race Thompson deserves all kinds of credit for playing after having facial surgery and suffering a sprained ankle in the past 10 days, but he missed one bunny at the rim, then another. Trayce Jackson-Davis also missed one bunny at the rim, then another, and was 3-for-7 from the line. He did score 19 points, though. That’s good.

Rob Phinisee, a junior, a point guard, was 40 feet from the rim when he threw a lazy pass toward Armaan Franklin, only to have it stolen by Rutgers’ Geo Baker, who was dunking at the other end while Miller was turning his back and throwing his hands disgustedly into the air.

The IU players did that.

Now, the IU players don’t appear to be coached very well, though Miller did reference the vast improvements this season by Franklin and Jackson-Davis. I think he was suggesting that the program should be doing that with all players, but it’s possible he was just patting himself on the back there.

As far as what went wrong this season, he referenced the loss of 6-11 senior center Joey Brunk six or seven times — I’m being serious — and while Brunk is good and depth matters, and as an aside I happen to love Joey Brunk, if you didn’t know better you’d think the Hoosiers had lost Lew Alcindor.

Also, it seems to me that a serious Big Ten program would enter the season with more than three players who can play in the paint. What if someone gets in foul trouble? What if someone gets hurt? Who enters a season in a league like the Big Ten with just three big men?

On the other hand, at least all those guards are really good shooters.

Oh, wait.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Caleb McConnell (22) defends Indiana Hoosiers forward Race Thompson (25) on Thursday, March 11, 2021, during the men's Big Ten basketball tournament from Lucas Oil Stadium. Indiana lost 50-61.

No, I’m not in the mood to hear excuses by an IU coach whose Big Ten record in four seasons is … well, what is it? The official IU game notes going into Thursday’s game list Archie’s combined record at Dayton and IU overall (206-120) and in league play (101-77), and it lists his overall IU record (67-57). Funny, it doesn’t mention his record in the Big Ten. Let me look it up somewhere else, and here it is: 33-43 (.433).

Sorry. Was that supposed to be a secret?

Afterward, someone asked Archie what his message would be to fans concerned with his program’s direction.

“The message to anybody right now: At the end of the day, we’ll be fine,” Archie said. “Got good guys, guys who battled. Like every program at this point in time, we have to take inventory…”

Archie went on to say some stuff — sounded to me like blah, blah, blah — but my ears perked up here:

“Like I told our team,” he was saying, “we got our opportunity, we didn’t cash in on it. Performance matters.”

Yes, it does.

And I’m thinking if IU missed the last 13 shots of Archie Miller’s career, well, that sounds about right.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/gregg.doyel.