Archie Miller has spent much of his life in his older brother’s shadow: As a kid in western Pennsylvania, as a player in the college ranks, later as an assistant on Sean’s staff at Arizona.
So when an interviewer accidentally called Archie by his brother’s name on national television, there was a long awkward silence. To be fair, some of it was the delay on the satellite feed between questions. Still, it seemed to catch Archie off guard.
A few days later, as he was doing interviews before Dayton faced Stanford in the NCAA tournament, another interviewer apologized for calling Archie by the wrong name.
“You don’t have to worry about that,” Archie said. “Everybody calls me Sean.”
Maybe not much longer.
In his third season as the head coach at Dayton, Archie has his underdog Flyers in the same place big bro has the blue-blood Arizona Wildcats: the Sweet 16.
Arizona is in the regional semifinals for the third time in four years after master recruiter Sean pulled together a string of among-the-best-in-the-nation classes. The Wildcats, the No. 1 seed in the West, are supremely athletic and play defense like few teams in the country, overcoming the jitters against Weber State and reaching the Sweet 16 with a rout of Gonzaga.
Arizona faces San Diego State in the West Regional semifinals Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.
After two years as an assistant under Sean, Archie left the desert for Dayton, where he modeled his program after the success the brothers had together in Arizona.
Dayton has been the surprise of this year’s bracket, a scrappy team that’s in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years after knocking off sixth-seeded Ohio State — and millions of brackets in the process — then Syracuse in one magical weekend.
The Flyers tip off against Stanford on Thursday night in Memphis about two hours before Sean and the Wildcats hit the floor.
The divergent paths ended up in the same place, making them the first brothers to coach different teams in the Sweet 16 in NCAA tournament history.
“It’s very special,” Sean said after the Gonzaga game. “We’re both the product of a great family, but in particular our dad being who he is, not only a great high school coach — maybe one of the best ever, at least in our opinion — but also a great dad. It was that combination of so much time spent that you know he gave us an understanding of the game, a love of the game, and I think we’re both probably coaches because of him. Today is a special day in my mind more for him.”
John Miller was a legendary high school coach in western Pennsylvania who won four state titles and over 600 games. He could have gone on to coach in college, maybe even continued to the NBA, but opted to stick to the high school ranks, in part so he could stay close to his family.
John was not easy on Sean and Archie, rarely giving them praise, constantly driving them to become better players, instilling a hard-working attitude that would carry them through the rest of their lives.
Sean was dribbling prodigy who appeared on national television and did exhibitions at local gyms. He was the starting point guard at Pittsburgh and left as the all-time Big East leader in career assists and 10th in Division I free-throw percentage.
After 12 years as an assistant, Sean became the head coach at Xavier, where he led the Musketeers to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 from 2008-09 before resurrecting an Arizona program that had fallen into turmoil.
Archie was a scrappy guard with an outstanding shooting touch in four years at North Carolina State, where he is third in career free-throw percentage and fourth in career 3-pointers made. He spent five years as an assistant coach — 2009-11 under his brother — before heading to Dayton, where has led the mid-major Flyers in a Sweet 16 filled with major-program monsters.
“My dad gets a lot of credit, deservedly so because of the time he spent with us,” Sean said. “But he’s just one of those throwback coaches that knew the game, loved the game, was good at teaching and coaching, but gave that passion to his kids. Everywhere he went, we went.”
And now they’re taking him with them — to the Sweet 16.