Indiana head football coach Tom Allen might have put it best this spring when talking about the importance of verbal leadership on his team.
“You imagine a coach not saying a whole lot to the team,” Allen said after a spring practice. “He may be doing everything right but if he doesn’t ever speak, he’s not going to influence anybody around him, and leadership is influence.”
Allen has had to tackle the challenge of quiet by nature quarterbacks, and IU head basketball coach Archie Miller has been dealing with a roster full of guys that are reluctant to speak up.
The third year leader of the IU program sees the dynamic as something generational.
“I think for me and learning how things go, especially with young people these days, they can very much stay in their own lane, on their own phone,” Miller said on Wednesday at IU’s men’s basketball media day.
“You know the setting with young people these days. They very literally don’t talk as much as they used to.”
When it comes to constructing a roster, building chemistry and finding leadership, Miller and his staff have made verbal communication a point of emphasis.
“We try to put our guys in situations where it forces them communicate, be more active with one another always,” he said.
Miller believes that the effort invested with players that have now been with him for a few years should start to pay off.
“I think the one thing that’s unique as you get older, as you have more familiarity with each other, you have more closeness, Miller said. “You’re not as new.
“Last year’s team had five true freshman and one transfer, so six new bodies. This team has two true freshman and one new guy. Those older guys are all back and they’re more familiar with one another, with the routine, and they’re more able to communicate what to do, when to do it, how to do it.”
Although Miller has more older guys, verbal leadership from the veterans will still require many of them to step out of their comfort zones.
Fortunately, that “one new guy” Miller mentioned feels right at home leading with his voice.
“Because we do have a group of guys that naturally are kind of quiet natured, I think that’s where Joey (Brunk) has been a great boost with his voice,” Miller said. “His personality has really helped our workouts, he’s helped our locker room.”
It isn’t easy for a new guy of any age to walk into a locker room and lead, but Brunk told me yesterday that is something that was discussed when IU was recruiting him and something that he is more than comfortable doing.
“It (verbal leadership) was something that we had talked about when I was getting recruited, but I do think that’s kind of a little bit of my personality,” Brunk said on Tuesday at the player portion of the IU basketball media day. “I’m comfortable with who I am and I don’t have any problem talking and speaking up on anything.”
Senior forward De’Ron Davis has noticed Brunk’s immediate impact in that regard as well.
“Joey is a leader on and off the floor,” Davis said. “He brings a lot of energy. He’s a loud voice for us.”
Of course Miller was a point guard at North Carolina State, and he understands the importance of leadership from that position better than most, referring to the point guard as “an extension of the coaching staff” yesterday.
Miller now sees sophomore Rob Phinisee starting to grow into more of a leadership role as well.
“The younger guys who’ve got a year under their belt have changed,” Miller said. “Robert has done a really nice job in our workouts. He’s taken a concerted effort to communicate better, talk better, not be quiet.
“He has had a lot of experience under his belt, he’s been through a lot in his one year, and he’s more prepared to handle the communication part of it, and he knows that’s a big part of his job.”
The point of emphasis on communication by Miller and his staff highlights what outwardly appeared to be missing from Indiana’s 2018-19 team.
As Allen said, leadership is influence, and the Hoosiers seemed to desperately need stronger voices to push them through a stretch that included losing 12 of 13 games.
With Brunk and Phinisee leading the way, Miller believes that aspect of this team is in a better place now.
“There has definitely been some step-up in that regard,” Miller said. “I definitely think our team understands from a staff perspective there is a lot of pressure on us as a group of people to really come together.
“To do that, I think definitely more talking, more communicating, and more situations where we’re forcing them to be sort of the driving force behind that.”
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