Archie Miller at VCU. David Jablonski/Staff
Last March, everybody and their brother wanted to talk to Archie Miller. He gave multiple interviews daily during the Elite Eight run as the media madness of March took over.
It’s starting again. The Flyers are now a great story because of what they’ve done in the regular season and how they’ve done it. Miller talked to Jim Rome for nine-plus minutes on Wednesday.
Transcribing interviews is the worst part of my job (though I must say it’s an awesome job and I love it), but I transcribed this whole thing. Here it is (or you can listen here):
Q: How do you feel like your team is ready in terms of getting ready for the postseason?
A: I like the bounce. At this time of year, you’re searching for those answers to combat mental and physical fatigue. To be in the games we’ve been in, to be relevant right now for a conference championship, our guys have energy. They’re working for it. They want to be in the games and in practices. At this time of year, as a coach, that’s what you’re hoping for: a team that’s energized to be there. I think that’s where we are right now.
Q: What do you make of the way your guys stood up to the pressure (at VCU)?
A: I think I’m proud of them No. 1. There’s a core group of guys that have won a lot of big games. They were in some really intense moments a year ago in March. It’s carried over. They have a winning attitude. I thought going to VCU, understanding we were going to be dealing with an electric environment with all the pressure, I thought all our guys were playing under control. They were calm. They took what we told them to do in terms of trusting each other. It was nice to see. The big thing was we were able to play some defense in that game, too. We didn’t have to deal with all the pressing because we were able to get some stops. There’s different ways to skin a cat. I thought our guys did a nice job.
Q: When (the dismissals) all went down, what were you thinking about how the rest of this season would play out?
A: I think first thing you do is you take all the negatives and say, ‘Where are our positives?’ Because we were going to be really perimeter oriented. I thought it really gave us a chance to be dynamic offensively. Use it as a strength. The bigger they are, the more we make them chase us. Defensively is really where we had to say, ‘How are we going to stay out of foul trouble and do some things?’ Guys have really covered for one another. Being where you’re supposed to be at any given time on one possession means the world to us. If we’re out of position, fouling crushes us because of our depth. Guys have just done a tremendous job of covering for one another. On offense, we use it as a strength. Because we are short on the roster, what’s happened is tremendous chemistry of five people on the floor at one time that have just logged a ton of minutes together. You can tell they are very connected.
Q: Shortly after that dismissal, you called a team meeting. What was your message to every guy in that room?
A: My message was: have great pride in what we do. There’s a lot of pride in the room. Each individual player now had an opportunity to catapult their career. It was a career-altering moment for a lot of our players. How do you want to take this thing on? You’re going to have as much opportunity to play as you want. Winning is still the ultimate prize. I feel like those guys have enough pride to say, ‘Hey, we’re fine. We’re going to be all right. We’re fine.’ It starts with Jordan Sibert’s leadership. He’s having an all-conference year. I think every single guy has really bought into the opportunity and said, ‘I’m no longer going to be a regular sophomore or junior.’ To me, they’re the most experienced players in all of college basketball right now. They embraced it. Guys have really blossomed, and I’m happy for them.
Q: How do you get better in practice without risking injury?
A: That’s been the delicate balance all season. As a coach, you’re constantly trying to improve and work on slippage and things you need to prepare in the game. You also know if you don’t have the players available for the game, it doesn’t matter. We’ve backed off. We’ve turned back on. We’ve backed off. We’ve turned back on. What we’ve done is found a competitiveness through two people, three people, four people and using just an amazing amount of scout team people, GAs, managers, whatever, to find some simulation for when we can go 5-on-5. To be honest, we’re going very short right now: about 45 minutes a day. I know a lot of people are saying, how do you do that: 45 minutes a day. They play so many minutes together they know what to do. It’s about staying sharp and staying fresh.
Q: Sending out a lineup with nobody bigger than 6-6, what do you tell your guys in terms of compensating in the paint?
A: The biggest thing on defense is what is our strength and it’s quickness. When you’re small, you have to be quick and you have to put pressure on teams. We’ve really been a ball-pressure team that gets to the places on the floor off the ball to cover for one another. Protect each other at all costs. The biggest thing on the glass has been a five-man mentality. We’re the No. 1 defensive rebounding team in the Atlantic 10, and we don’t have a guy bigger than 6-6. That’s mentality. When you have a group that’s locked in and buys into what you say and you keep it simple, to me that’s what it’s been about. We don’t worry about what the other team’s doing. We’re constantly aware of what we’re doing. It’s much easier to prepare that way. We’ve been a team that plays to our strengths and really hasn’t played a whole lot of attention to what our weaknesses are.
Q: Do you think you’re better off with the smaller lineup?
A: I do. I think skill is everything in the college game. There are so many different styles of play. There are so many different combinations of big people on the floor that makes things hard. To me, the more skilled you are, the more options you have. We have five perimeter players who can really move the ball and they move each other. We’re also very fortunate that two of our forwards, Pierre and Pollard, are really inside-out guys. We do play inside-out basketball. We do attack the paint in the post as much as anyone realizes. An amazing stat for a group of guys that we have: we’ve basically made more free throws on the season than our opponents have taken. For a team that’s not very big, we still have found a way to attack the rim and attack the paint.
Q: Last year’s run to the Elite Eight was obviously an amazing story. Does the story end when the season ends or can you carry some of that energy over?
A: Without a doubt, winning on that stage in March, when you’re trying to establish a program, is everything. The carryover from last year’s run was very evident as we approached this season in terms of how far ahead we were in learning how to win. Being undefeated at home, winning 21 in a row at home so far, has really been remarkable carryover of the winning mentality. I think you have to do it one or two times to understand how it carries over because the players want to get back there. It’s almost addicting to be in March Madness. To understand how to get there, though, that’s the real carryover. Being able to do it through the grind of January and February.
Q: Your name’s coming up as candidate for national coach of the year. You’re probably going to get calls about job openings once the year is over. This is where I ask you that question and you tell me it’s the farthest thing from your mind. When your phone rings, what do you do? Do you answer? Do you listen? How do you approach it?
A: I pay absolutely no attention to it. We have a season going on. I’ve always been that way. The people I’ve been with have taught me if you do a great job at the place where we’re at, that’s the thing you’ve got to focus on the most because good things happen. If I’m coach of the year, then we have the team of the year, and I’m good with that. That’s fine. I’m at the University of Dayton. I love being here. Phone calls can come and go as they may, but it’s been apparent we have a great thing here. Our administration, I love to be with. They’ve done everything in their power to help us be successful. Winning at a place that’s important, that’s the name of the game in coaching. You want to be at a place where you can win. That’s what we have here. I’m very confident in what we’re doing, and I love being here.