Year two of the Archie Miller Experience wrapped up with a spirited loss to Brad Stevens’ Butler Bulldogs in Brooklyn. The season seemed to peak around the Murray State loss, a victory that pushed the Flyers overall record to 9-3.
Dayton began its conference schedule with visits to VCU and La Salle, with a home date against Butler sandwiched in between. The Flyers lost all three and placed themselves squarely behind the eight ball, never to recover. The official death of the season coming on a last second three-pointer from Rhode Island’s Xavier Munford in mid-February.
Nevertheless, the season in hindsight isn’t as disappointing as UD’s record implies. Seven of its nine A10 losses were to NCAA Tournament teams, excluding a lopsided loss at Saint Louis, the Flyers average margin of defeat in conference games was just five points.
The low points are fairly apparent: another dismal performance on the road, 2-8, not a single victory over a team in the RPI top 50 and an absolute failure to close out games (UD was 0-7 in games decided by three points or less).
There are so many factors that played into this season’s imbalance: a lack of toughness inside, inconsistent perimeter shooting, Khari Price’s injury, Kevin Dillard’s reluctance to trust his teammates and the dearth of contributions from Derenbecker and the Big Frog. I’m sure you could name more.
However, the most examined critique is always saved for the man on top, the head coach, Kid Yuma. Every coach gets a pass in Year One. It’s a new system, he inherits players he has never seen before taking the job and the fan base is more than likely pleased to have someone, anyone, running the show instead of his predecessor.
During year two, patterns start to emerge. Is this coach a good in-game strategist, does he make the right adjustments (does he make adjustments at all), is he allocating minutes in an effective manner? No evaluation is complete without proper context. So, how does Archie stack up to his peers after two seasons at the helm?
Below are the records of the first two season of the 14 conference coaches that have been with their current teams for at least two years (which excludes Jim Ferry, Danny Hurley and Jim Crews) cross-checked with the record of the last two seasons of their precursors.
So the long and short of it? Archie isn’t doing half-bad. For all intents and purposes, the program reset prior to Kid Yuma’s arrival. Juwan Staten and Brandon Spearman decided to transfer, LaDontae Henton and Percy Gibson reneged on their commitments and Archie had to scramble and bring in Alex Gavrilovic just to get some depth up front. Josh Parker was the team’s primary ball-handler behind Dillard, let that sink in.
The problem, of course, is that UD failed to make any headway this season. Hence, doubt naturally creeps into the fan base. If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. We all get that, we’re a society built on immediate gratification.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s all relative. Tom Pecora wins a few games and it feels like a complete turnaround. Shaka Smart leads VCU to a fifth place conference finish in his first season and Ram supporters sense the program is already slipping in Anthony Grant’s absence (the Final Four finish the next season probably calmed their nerves a bit).
I’d say at this point, Archie is hovering somewhere in the middle as far as his approval rating is concerned. UD fans are clearly not impressed with his in-game coaching but seem to think he can bring in enough talent to compensate for his weaknesses, a formula which turned the hapless Rick Barnes into a multi-millionaire.
Year Three is going to be a crucial season for Arch. Every player on the roster, save Devin Oliver, will be an Archie recruit. Although the Flyers may be a tad thin upfront, they will possess an overabundance of depth elsewhere. With the Overlords, Butler and Temple permanently omitted from UD’s conference schedule, an improvement on this season’s conference performance is a must. A coach, even a mid-major coach, only gets a season or two of subpar output before the natives get restless. If Miller’s team doesn’t show marked improvement by this time next season, that restlessness will be justified.
Shifting gears, if I told you Anthony Solomon and Billy Hahn were the previous coaches of Saint Bonaventure and La Salle respectively would you have any clue if I was lying or not? I follow the Atlantic Ten closer than most doctors would recommend, yet I don’t remember these coaches at all, a complete blank (I know of Hahn, he was a long time assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland, but had no clue he coached La Salle for three years. Solomon remained a complete mystery until I saw his name in Mark Schmidt’s bio).
You don’t forget guys like Karl Hobbs, Bobby Lutz, John Chaney and Travis Ford. Names like Brad Soderberg and Jerry Wainwright will be recalled eventually after some thought. But Solomon and Hahn don’t ring a bell at all, and I’m sure Dayton faced off against each coach multiple times.
To be fair, Solomon took over SBU after the welding certificate scandal under Jan van Breda Kolff and was essentially charged with not digging a deeper hole for the program. His four years were quiet for a reason. Hahn’s tenure, however, was more colorful:
Hahn was forced to resign in 2004 when a women’s basketball player claimed he discouraged her from reporting a rape she said occurred in April 2003 that allegedly involved one of Hahn’s players.
You would think this incident alone would cement his memory in my mind. Not sure how this information ties into the rest of this post, but I thank you for reading anyway.