At 5-9 and 160 pounds, Archie Miller was never going to strike fear in the hearts of his opponents with his size. But give him an inch from behind the 3-point line, and suddenly, opposing teams were horrified. As the son of a high school basketball coach, Archie Miller grew up in a gym. As we’ve seen with Hoosier legends such as Steve Alford and Jordan Hulls, if you spend enough time in a gym as a kid — you can learn how to shoot the rock.
When you watch video of him playing (which you can do below), two former Hoosiers come to mind. Wearing #11, you can see a little Yogi Ferrell in his game. To be sure, Miller didn’t have Ferrell’s athleticism. Few do. But as you watch him elevate on his jumper, and see the fire that he played with, you can certainly see some of the IU all-time assists leader’s game.
The other Hoosier that comes to mind is Hulls. We always appreciated Hulls’ game because you always felt like he was truly maximizing his abilities. Miller appeared to be much the same in that sense. Moreover, both had a reputation as a lights-out 3-point shooter that must be accounted for at all times.
Given his size and approach to the game, is it any wonder that his career could be characterized as a “hidden gem”?
ARCHIE’S NC STATE CAREER
A Pittsburgh native, Archie followed his brother Sean to North Carolina State to play for head coach Herb Sendek. Sean was an assistant at NC State under Sendek from 1996-2001. As an undersized guard Miller wasn’t a highly rated recruit in the shadows of the big names such as Tracy McGrady, Baron Davis, and yes, Luke Recker.
Archie made an immediate impact in his first season at NC State, demonstrating his capabilities as an assassin from 3-point range. On the season Miller would average 7.4 points per game coming off the bench while shooting 42.3% from distance. Miller finished second in the ACC in 3-point percentage as a freshman.
Miller missed all but three games in his second season before needing season-ending back surgery to repair two bulging disks. His absence didn’t go unnoticed by Sendek who had this to say as the Wolfpack prepared to open their 1999-2000 season:
“Archie has done very well,” Sendek said in the off-season. “He is about the toughest guy I have ever been around. He is tough cracker. It will be good to have him back.”
Miller struggled for much of that redshirt sophomore season to regain his shooting touch coming off the bench. He would later say that he never really felt comfortable that season. It wasn’t until his junior year in 2000-01 that Archie finally started to fully feel like himself again.
Miller got off to a hot start in the 2000-01 season. In a piece by the Greensboro News & Record at the time, Sendek heaped on the praise for his junior point guard and made some observations that suggested there was a young coach in the making:
“He’s shooting the ball as well as anyone in the country and is also leading as well as anyone in the country,’ Sendek said. “Every day, he brings energy and confidence to our team. Every player has been a benefactor at his position and has become better because of him.’
You can even start to better understand Miller’s appreciation for a player like Zach McRoberts with that quote from his former coach.
Coming into Indiana’s 2017-18 season, we wondered whether Miller’s point guard pedigree would serve him well as a coach as we looked at how many of the all-time great coaches played that position. Irrespective of whether he might become an “all-time great” coach, what was becoming clear in the 2000-01 season was that a young Archie Miller had the right attributes to lead.
Miller would go on to lead the team in field goal percentage his junior year. Ultimately another injury, this time a stress fracture to his leg, would interrupt an important portion of the 2000-01 season. Archie had just one more chance to put it all together in his senior year.
THE 2001-02 SEASON
Despite experiencing some success during his first four seasons at NC State, team captain Miller and the Wolfpack could never quite break through in the unforgiving ACC. Because of that the team never reached the NCAA tournament in those years, instead settling for three trips to the NIT and a disappointing 2000-01 campaign.
The 2001-02 season would be different, as the Wolfpack would sweep in-state rival North Carolina who was struggling through a down year. The Pack would reach the top 25 briefly in February after a win over a top 10 Virginia team.
It was a season that would have some interesting parallels to the 2001-02 Indiana Hoosiers. NC State’s real nemesis in 2002 was none other than the Duke Blue Devils. The teams played three times in 2002 and Duke completed the three game sweep. They won each game by a large margin, with final scores of 76-57, 108-71 and 91-61. We all know how that #1 ranked Duke team’s season ended.
One of those Duke wins over NC State was in the finals of the ACC Tournament. NC State got there by beating another team that Indiana would get to know later that year — Maryland. The Pack knocked off the Terrapins 86-82 in a major upset to reach the ACC final. Miller had 16 in the upset win and was named to the ACC all-tournament team.
NC State was solidly in the NCAA tournament as a #7 seed and would meet yet another foe familiar to IU — the #10 seed Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans were “rebuilding” after their dominant run from 1999-2001 including a 2000 National Championship. Michigan State of course was still able to defeat Indiana at the Breslin Center that year, although the Hoosiers took 2 out of 3 including a Big Ten tournament victory. NC State took care of the Spartans 69-58 to advance to the second round.
NC State would put up a valiant fight against the No. 2 seed Connecticut before falling 77-74 as Miller’s college career came to an end.
Miller would end his career 4th all-time at NC State with 218 3-pointers made, and his career 3-point percentage of 42.8% is the 6th best all-time for the Wolfpack. He also has the third best ever career free throw percentage at NC State.
BORN TO COACH
They say that Archie Miller was always destined to be a coach. If you watch this post-game interview with Miller in 2001 you can clearly see that the writing was on the wall, as he provides in depth post-game analysis, player evaluations, and thoughts on what needs to improve going forward. It is a younger voice, but if you close your eyes and just listen, this doesn’t sound all too much different than an Archie Miller post-game today. The video with Miller starts at around the 1:25 mark.
FOREVER A TEAMMATE
You may have seen this video over the course of the 2017-18 Indiana season, but we’d be remiss to end without showing you a different side of Miller. Archie’s NC State teammate Brian Keeter was severely injured in a car accident in 2008. Despite his extremely busy and emerging college coaching career, Miller has always managed to stay connected with Keeter and keep him involved with the Dayton and now Indiana programs. This is worth a quick view as you can see a completely different side of Indiana’s fiery young coach:
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Main photo – Archie Miller playing in his final college game in the NCAA tournament against UCONN