OT: Doyel on Xavier

Part of a piece about Ohio’s big three hoops powers. I’m copying the part about future A-10 mate Xavier…


Only time will tell if [Sean] Miller keeps Xavier among the national elite, but few coaches before him – at any school – have been groomed this thoroughly for success.

His father, John Miller, is a longtime high school and AAU coach who taught his son well. As a fifth-grader, Sean was performing ball-handling wizardry on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was a high school All-American and a college star who finished his career as Pittsburgh’s career leader in assists. He was Herb Sendek’s lead assistant at N.C. State, and Matta’s associate head coach at Xavier.

That’s an impeccable coaching resume, and recruits have noticed. Miller has retained the verbal commitment 6-6 wing B.J. Raymond of Toledo had given to Matta at Xavier, and three weeks ago he picked up a commitment from 6-7 wing Derrick Brown of Dayton.

The hiring of Miller also means Xavier no longer has an interim coach, which is basically what Matta was. Since his 26-6 Xavier debut in 2001-02, Matta was holding down the job on a temporary basis. Everyone knew it.

For Xavier, it was better to lose Matta now instead of later. See, Miller was going to be a head coach – soon. He almost took the Illinois State job two years ago, and Stan Van Gundy even tried to hire Miller for his staff with the Miami Heat last year.

Whether it was Miller or someone else, Xavier was going to replace Matta with a rising star. Replacing Matta with Miller gives the program a rising star – and continuity. Remember when assistant Skip Prosser replaced Pete Gillen in 1994? That worked out pretty well.

“We’ve had three days of practice for our trip (Oct. 6-10) to the Bahamas,” Miller said Thursday. “The players are comfortable because it’s the same basic terminology, same practice demeanor, same length of time. I’m not trying to recreate the wheel.”

Some day Miller still might follow Bob Staak, Gillen, Prosser and Matta to a bigger conference. Or he might just turn Xavier, once and for all, into a destination job.

“Every coach who came to Xavier, starting with Bob Staak, was part of its rise,” Miller said from his office, which overlooks the floor of the 4-year-old Cintas Center. "Xavier faithful give Bob Staak tremendous credit for getting it started, and then Pete Gillen took over … and Xavier became dominant. Then there was a big change to the Atlantic 10, and Skip Prosser kept it going and got (the Cintas Center) done. He put the program in an incredible position – tremendous players, great building.

“And then the last three years with Thad, winning 26 games, the run to the Elite Eight, finishing in the Top 25 all three years … It’s an honor for me to be able to coach in this program. I’m not blowing smoke when I say it’s a job I’d like to have for a long, long, long time.”

Winning is the key, but even with the loss of Romain Sato, Lionel Chalmers and Anthony Myles, Miller has the necessary parts in place. Nigerian point guard Churchill Odia is a monster talent, but only one-fourth of a highly regarded freshman class.

Vanderbilt transfer Brian Thornton is a 6-8, 250-pound force who averaged 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in 2002-03 and is reminiscent of two ex-ACC stars, Maryland’s Lonny Baxter and Virginia’s Travis Watson. Returning players like Justin Doellman, Dedrick Finn and Justin Cage don’t know anything but winning.[/b]

Sporstline.com link: Gregg Doyel: Ohio’s big three doing just fine after coaching shakeup