Saturday, July 6, 2013
Miller gives Butler recruiting continuity
By Dave Telep
It's called The Butler Way, and it's not merely a cute saying, but rather a way of existence for one of the country's most unique college basketball powers.
On Saturday, athletic director Barry Collier filled Butler’s vacant head-coaching spot, created when Brad Stevens left this week to be head coach of the Boston Celtics, by choosing to sustain The Butler Way. Collier replaced Stevens by promoting an in-house candidate -- former Butler player Brandon Miller, who was just rehired as a Bulldogs assistant in April -- who happened to be on the ground floor of the construction of this national program.
Had Butler gone outside the family, it most certainly would not have been The Butler Way. Hiring Miller is a way to sustain the culture and identity of this program.
It also means Butler’s new head coach won't have strains on his time during a key month in the recruiting calendar.
Miller has been a soldier and a lieutenant in the Butler army. Now he's commander-in-chief, as he takes over the reins of the program a mere four days before the tip of the pivotal July recruiting period, which begins on Wednesday with the first open evaluation period (July 10-14) for college coaches.
What is Miller's course of action in recruiting? Priority No. 1 is don't panic.
ESPN 100 SF Trevon Bluiett is a priority recruit for new Butler head coach Brandon Miller.
Miller was part of Butler's recruiting planning and helped construct the Bulldogs’ July hit list. His first order of business is changing all of Stevens’ flight plans to his name. Miller knows that ESPN 100 small forward Trevon Bluiett is the program's top 2014 target. There's messaging that needs to happen immediately to keep Bluiett in the loop while continuing the hard sell to him.
The next few days of Miller's life will happen so fast he won't recall them once July 10 rolls around. His most important recruits are the freshmen who are on campus right now. They'll have questions and need to be tended to.
Next, he’ll have to turn his attention to the July recruiting plan. The good news is he doesn't have to construct the plan, just carry out the current one. His biggest challenge will be selling Butler’s targets on the notion that he's moving over a seat.
The key here is continuity, and it’s what Butler does best. This program was forged on great recruiting evaluations -- complete, holistic evaluations. Stevens and his staff did a masterful job of matching pieces with their program. If given the choice between the ranked player or the better fit, Butler took fit over talent every time. As a young head coach, that will be one of Miller's biggest challenges: not getting seduced by talent.
Butler is embedded within the state of Indiana. The program has the respect of the high school coaches because it has always treated them well. In return, there's a natural inclination toward helping the program succeed. Each place Miller has cut his teeth at (Butler, Ohio State and Illinois) has been a program with a dedication to recruiting its region, so don't expect him to go national right away. However, the Bulldogs have done well recently in Florida and a handful of other states.
Butler places a premium on character, skill, defensive ability and overall intelligence. Its current roster was built on those pillars, and Miller is unlikely to change that focus with his recruiting efforts. He's been indoctrinated into the culture, and now more than ever he should embrace the stability of the foundation.
Most of Butler's staff is likely to remain intact, and that's fortunate for the Bulldogs during this transition period. This program knows what's at stake. Instead of having to hire a staff and set recruiting priorities, Miller has the competitive advantage of assuming Stevens' recruiting list. This can't be underestimated in terms of the value and timing. Any new head coach would always want more time to prepare, but the fact that Miller will need to get on the road in a few days is a blessing in disguise. Instead of having his time sapped internally, he can get off campus and immerse himself in recruiting.
One area Miller might pursue long term is analytics and recruiting. Last year, Stevens hired Drew Cannon to his staff in an attempt to expand Butler's analytical approach. Two of Butler’s 2013 signees -- Rene Castro and Andrew Chrabascz -- were the result of Cannon's identifications of their efficiency ratings through Nike EYBL statistics. Continuing to build on what Stevens and Cannon did could prove to be a competitive advantage as Butler moves up a step into the Big East.
My dealings with Miller paint the following picture: He's a guy who will roll up his sleeves and not only be present in the gym, but do the follow-up work required. He's been trained to be a details guy. He takes pride in his evaluations and he's been eager to expand his program’s recruiting list. He always struck me as a coach intent on getting the evaluation correct and compiling the intel needed to make the decision. This is a huge step for him, and he's surrounded by people who can help him stay on task.
Miller played for Butler. He knows the landscape of the program and has seen what's worked. There are chapters in The Butler Way that he authored. Surely, over time, Miller will put his ideas and identity in play at Butler.
For now, however, he should follow Butler’s outline for the 2014 recruiting plan, reach out to as many prospects as he can and smile for the camera when he's in gyms this month, because all eyes will be on the new guy.