After decision to fire Gottfried, attention shifts to Miller
Posted February 17
By announcing the pending end of the Mark Gottfried era, NC State took most of the heat off its current basketball coach Thursday and transferred it directly to former Wolfpack guard Archie Miller.
The move wasn’t premeditated in terms of long-range design and may have been unavoidable given the performances of late by Gottfried’s sixth team, which slumped to 3-11 in the ACC and 14-13 overall after Wednesday’s 97-73 loss to UNC in the PNC Arena. He’ll coach out the rest of the season and then be replaced.
But regardless of how the next State coaching search starts and ends for athletic director Debbie Yow and the school’s administration, there’s no doubt now that the spotlight moves from the 53-year-old Gottfried to Miller.
There’s little reason to think Miller, 38, welcomes neither the timing nor the attention at this late stage in the regular season. Miller has said he has not been contacted by State and that he’s good at dismissing external distractions, but his orbit quickly has annexed the sort of sudden, strange dynamic most coaches detest.
Miller’s sixth Dayton team is 20-5 overall and tied for the Atlantic 10 Conference lead with Virginia Commonwealth at 11-2. With five regular-season games left, then the A-10 tournament in Pittsburgh (close to his Beaver Falls, Pa. hometown), Miller and the Flyers have a legitimate hope to become the next NCAA tourney version of George Mason in 2006, Butler in 2010, VCU in 2011 and Wichita State in 2013.
Josh Pastner and Georgia Tech this season aside, it’s a lot easier to make a fast, quiet assertion in the A-10 than the ACC, and Miller has made the most of his opportunity by building on the recruiting fringes, avoiding widespread roster turnover and developing talent.
Four of Miller’s five top scorers are seniors. That could be good and bad news for State fans hoping he’ll wind up in Raleigh. In one respect, the Dayton talent shelf will look near bare at season’s end. But on the other hand, Miller has gone 135-60 (64-33 in A-10) by plugging little-known juniors and sophomores into system roles of departing regulars.
But now everything Miller does, how he does it and the results he realizes will be under daily scrutiny not only by State fans, but just as intensely by Dayton fans and the school’s leaders.
Dayton is a private university so Miller’s employment package is not a matter of public record, but it’s safe to assume he makes at least $1.5 million annually, plus benefits and bonuses, and has a long-term contract. The Flyers won’t let him walk away without putting up a financial fight – a counterattack that’s already afoot.
As Yow and State have learned time and again, it’s no longer a given that a coach at the mid-major basketball level will jump simply because an ACC school snaps its fingers.
Odds are that Miller would be more inclined to do so since State is his alma mater and the place that gave him one of his first coaching chances. But Indiana may also be in a coaching hunt soon, so might Ohio State and he’s obviously very comfortable at Dayton.
Then there’s the situation with Yow, who has said she’ll retire after the 2018-19 academic year. If that remains her intention, the new coach will be dealing with an AD turnover in less than three years, which could be a factor, meaning Chancellor Randy Woodson likely will have to taken an active role in the sales pitch.
And, of course, there’s no guarantee Miller is the one and only target.
Odds are there are other names on the big board. Already, former Duke guards and assistants Chris Collins (Northwestern) and Steve Wojciechowski (Marquette) have been floated. So have Mick Cronin (Cincinnati), Gregg Marshall (Wichita State), LaVelle Moton (NC Central), Will Wade (VCU) and former Pack guard and NBA head coach Nate McMillan.
But until Miller says something definitive about his status, he’ll be the focus of much local and some national attention.