Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While it appears Butler could have enticed
a more proven coach to take over the helm of the program, Bulldogs fans have
little doubt in their newly appointed head coach Brandon Miller.
The position very unexpectedly opened up last week when Brad Stevens was
introduced as the new head coach of the rebuilding Boston Celtics. Miller's
hiring was much more predictable considering his history with the program.
"I am confident that Brandon will carry on the Butler University basketball
tradition of excellence, especially as we make the transition to the Big East
Athletic Conference," athletic director Barry Collier said. "As a player,
assistant coach, and person, Brandon has exemplified the Butler Way and
brings a blend of energy, talent and integrity to this role. With Brandon's
leadership, Butler is well positioned to expand upon the success of the last
As a player, Miller scored in double figures and dished out at least three
assists per game in all three seasons he played for Butler. He played an
instrumental role on the NCAA Tournament team that upset the Josh Howard-led
Wake Forest Demon Deacons in 2001.
He then cemented his legacy with the program in 2003 with a last-second shot
that lifted Butler over Mississippi State in the opening round of the Big
Dance. The Bulldogs went on to the Sweet 16 for the first time in over 40
Miller helped the team to a 77-20 record during his playing career, winning
three Horizon League titles and becoming one of eight in program history to
score 1,000 points in three seasons.
Being one of the final 16 teams left in the hunt for the championship became a
much more common occurrence for Butler under Stevens, who lifted the program to
new heights with a pair of appearances in the title game. His understandable
departure from Indianapolis for the NBA coincides with the Bulldogs' uphill
climb into the Big East.
It appears the 34-year-old Miller has an impossible act to follow in his
inaugural season as a head coach, which will only be more challenging due to
Butler's much more difficult conference slate. Playing in the Big East also
will have a positive effect, though, as it will boost the school's
attractiveness to recruits.
Stevens accomplished a great deal as a coach, but his signings were very rarely
blue chip-caliber prospects. Butler has been considered one of the smartest
teams in college basketball over recent years. Miller was considered an
excellent recruiter while serving as an assistant and can offer the players
on his wish list a chance to play in the Big East.
Miller should have an easier time in recruiting battles than his predecessor
did, which could be dangerous for the opposition if the system that exhibits a
very high basketball I.Q. stays intact.
Miller may be a rookie head coach, but he built a very impressive assistant
coaching resume during his career, which started under Stevens in 2007-2008 and
continued at Ohio State from 2008-2011 under Thad Matta. He then took a year
off to spend more time with his family before returning to basketball last
season as a special assistant to John Groce at Illinois. Miller became the
first coach ever to be hired by Stevens twice when he signed on to be an
assistant once again in April.
Collier mentioned how Miller was a prime example of "The Butler Way" when he
introduced him on Saturday. This means he demands commitment, denies
selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while promoting
the good of the team above self.
His reputation as one of the rising assistant coaches on the college basketball
scene came to an end when he stepped away for a season. It looks like
everything fell into place perfectly for both Miller and Butler.
Miller has little experience but an abundance of potential. The hiring of
younger coaches is becoming more and more common for good reason. If Butler
hired a former Big Ten coach who had already been in the limelight, it likely
would not have gotten quite as hungry of a new leader. Miller was a smart
player on the court and spent an ample amount of time learning how things work
in successful programs.
Butler has now made four consecutive in-house hires for its head coach
position. It clearly values loyalty and an understanding of the culture. It
took a six-year offer from one of the most historic franchises in all of sports
to pry Stevens away from the Bulldogs as he could have left for more lucrative
opportunities in one of the power conferences. Now with Butler settling into
one of the elite basketball leagues, it has a new coach in it for the long
Butler was the big fish in the small pond for much of Stevens's tenure because
it was a powerhouse in the Horizon League. The Bulldogs made it to the NCAA
Tournament last season in their only year as a member of the Atlantic 10
Conference. They will be underdogs in the Big East, but there is no doubt
Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the movie "Hoosiers" was filmed, will continue to
be a tough place to win for the opposition.
The Sports Network