Just five days short of the April 3 date in 2011, when Archie Miller was announced in a press conference as the new head coach for the Dayton Fliers, both Archie and big brother, Sean, must be thinking about the improbable quirk of fate that has them both vying for a Final Four spot just three years later.
And the ultimate long shot… that they could meet to play for the 2014 NCAA championship.
Archie said goodbye to his brother in Tucson after spending a couple of years helping Sean get the University of Arizona program moving in the right direction. As the associate head coach, he was his big brother’s right-hand man when Sean arrived in 2009 from Xavier to take over the Wildcat program. And he played a crucial role in the early development of the program because he was also the program’s recruiting coordinator – and it has been the recruiting successes in the last five years that has helped Arizona climb back onto the stage with the nation’s elite programs.
Sean knew it was just a matter of time before other schools would come knocking on his door, wanting to talk to his little bro about a better job. Archie had been on the coaching staff at Ohio State and followed Herb Sendek from North Carolina State to Arizona State, so he had been building a reputation as one of the better assistants in the country.
Archie was hired by Dayton when he was just 32 years old. Sean had just turned 40 when he took over in Tucson. Now, two of the brightest young coaches in the country are making their way through the biggest event in college hoops, and they just happen to be from the same family – and taught by the same father, John, who happens to be one of the best high-school coaches in Pennsylvania.
And that makes today a big day in the Miller family. John’s handiwork will be on display in both games of the day, as Dayton takes on Florida in the 3 pm game and Arizona meets Wisconsin in the next match-up.
Florida was the No. 1 team in the country coming into the tournament and is still considered the favorite to win it all, so Archie’s job directing an 11-seed to what would be one of the biggest upsets in tournament history is certainly the more formidable.
But Arizona has its work cut out for itself. It’s a good possibility that both of the Miller brothers could be watching the Final Four games from the bleachers. The No.2-seeded Badgers (29-7) have one of the best offenses in the country and, when the shots aren’t falling, they can beat you with the sheer tenacity of their disciplined defense.
And both coaches have been to the Big Dance more than once. Miller took the Cats to the Elite Eight as recently as 2011 and the Badgers were there in 2005. But Bo Ryan and Sean Miller have different types of teams this time around, both better than those of the past. There are so many similarities, in fact, that this game should go down to the wire. And both teams would be deserving of the win.
But it’s the back story here that will add the real theatre to this afternoon’s performances. Will the coaching brothers take one step closer to that meeting in Arlington, Texas on April 7? Or is one, or both, about to move to the sidelines?
Either way, Sean Miller and his little brother, Archie, will continue to be considered a couple of the hottest young coaches in the country. And, if today doesn’t go as planned, they both have plenty of time left in their careers for a future run to the national title.
And that’s a March Madness pick you can make with some certainty.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)