When it comes to hiring a coach for college basketball, there’s no bigger decision. It can make or break a program and we are currently seeing one of the better-known schools in the country sitting at these crossroads right now.
Since Billy Donovan can no longer pull a Billy Donovan and back out as Oklahoma City’s head coach and return to Florida, the Gators and AD Jeremy Foley are forced to find a new face of the program for the first time in nearly two decades. Of course this also happened just a couple of months after Shaka Smart – the longtime favorite to replace Donovan in Gainesville – took the same position at Texas.
Now, there’s only one answer when it comes to who Foley needs to hire.
It’s Dayton’s Archie Miller or bust.
Now, it’s not like he’s going to come in and have a Calipari-like turnaround, but Miller is the best coach on the board. He’s young enough to be the head man at Florida for a couple of decades like Billy D while still able to talk to recruits on a different level. Milller, just 36 years old, has already reached an Elite Eight, Sweet 16 and won an average of 23 games a season at Dayton, not a school you consider a powerhouse.
He’s the brother of Arizona’s Sean Miller, who took a similar path leaving Xavier to head west and turn Arizona into a powerhouse thanks to his recruiting tactics. Archie has connections to three prominent recruiting areas as well in Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Ohio. With the ability to pitch Florida at a recruit instead of Dayton, Ohio, you have to think he’ll be similar to his brother in grabbing a couple of McDonald’s All-American’s each year.
On top of all that, he’s a new face. Florida fans won’t feel slightly let down if Miller is announced the new head coach of the Gators opposed to someone like John Pelphrey or Anthony Grant getting the job. Both guys are liked by the Florida fanbase for their service as assistant coaches but they have both failed in the SEC.
If Foley goes that route, wouldn’t Florida fans be turned off and focus strictly on football? Now, this is one of the tougher parts of the job as Florida is truly a football school – despite the recent lack of success compared to the basketball program. But, recycling a coach that fans know couldn’t get it done at similar schools would only put Florida back to where it was before Donovan came along.
It won’t be easy to land Miller, though, as he did just re-up his contract at Dayton through the 2021-22 season, and the Flyers rank as the 23rd most profitable basketball program in the nation, 15 spots head of Florida. But we’ve seen Foley pony up to pay coaches and go away from the norm when it comes to hiring.
With the recent hires of coaches in the SEC – Bruce Pearl, Rick Barnes and Ben Howland – it’s important that Florida doesn’t get tossed toward the bottom of the conference. We’ve already seen schools make splashes in recruiting as well with Texas A&M, LSU and Kentucky ranking in the top 10 of classes for next season and Mississippi State joining them in the top 25.
The next two weeks will determine the next decade for Florida, and their only option is to look north to Dayton, Ohio.