From big man on campus to beer man off campus?
It almost happened.
Although Archie Miller grew up in a basketball family, he had his sights set on another path for a hot second as his playing career at North Carolina State was coming to a close.
As a five-year player for the Wolfpack, Miller had one of the more recognizable faces in Raleigh by his last season there in 2002.
When you coupled Miller’s popularity at N.C. State with the fact that people in college cities like to drink alcohol, having Miller sell liquor in Raleigh seemed like an uncontested lay-up.
The game plan was already drawn out.
“I actually had a job set up right when I got done (playing), Miller said on a recent podcast.
“I thought I would have been great at it. It would have been a lot of fun. I was going to work for a liquor distributing company and drive around Raleigh, North Carolina and go to the bars all day long and sell the promos. I just thought man I could hit a home run with this deal here.”
Miller earned the nickname Archie as a result of his ornery personality as a child that reminded his family of the character Archie Bunker on the television show All in the Family.
It is difficult to imagine Bunker, a foreman at a loading dock in the sitcom, in sales.
Perhaps that realization hit Miller as he pondered his first job out of college.
“I decided that probably wasn’t the best option at the time,” Miller said.
Miller’s father John is a Pennsylvania high school coaching legend. The elder Miller won 72 percent of his games in 29 seasons, including eight Western Pennsylvania Independent Athletic League titles and four state championships,
Archie’s older brother Sean is well known in the coaching business, including a stint as associate head coach at N.C. State during his younger brother’s playing days.
Although he knew better than most what he was getting himself into, eventually Archie got the bug to coach.
“I knew I wanted to coach later in my (playing) career,” he said. “Earlier in my career I really didn’t think anything of it. I knew the business was really hard because I had such an insight to it.”
At just over 5-foot-9, Miller didn’t have a path to the NBA. And his other professional basketball playing options were not appealing.
“When I got done playing I wanted to be part of the game,” Miller said. “But I didn’t want to go overseas and play. That wasn’t for me.”
So it came down to two options. Selling booze in Raleigh, or getting into the family business.
That’s when Miller’s college head coach stepped in.
“(N.C. State head coach) Herb Sendek gave me an opportunity,” Miller said. “At the time it was a little different than it is now. I was basically an office intern for a year. $150 bucks every two weeks to sit in an office and lick envelopes and send Fed Exes and whatever I was allowed to do within the rules.”
While perhaps not as glamorous as hanging out in the Raleigh bars and schmoozing with the locals, for the first time Miller saw the other side of the game.
“It was great being in the office for a change rather than being on the practice floor,” he continued. “Because as a player, all those things you said about the coaches, and all the stuff that you would think about, you would be on the other side of the office looking back in their direction saying these guys have absolutely no clue how hard it is right now.”
After a year in the business, Miller’s coaching career was set in motion, while the liquor sales dream was put in park.
Perhaps in an effort to keep his Plan B alive, Miller took his first assistant coaching gig just down the road from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
“I went off to Western Kentucky the following year full-time,” Miller said. “That was another opportunity that was really, really, unique. To be 24 years old and be a full-time assistant.
“I look at the guys trying to get into this business right now and trying to stay in this business, and it is very hard to do. So I was very fortunate early on when I got done playing.”
It turned out Miller did hit the career home run, but it was with the whole coaching thing.
As for Archie the beer man, we’ll never know.
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