Sean and Archie Miller never really had a fierce rivalry on the basketball court while growing up in Pennsylvania.
Sean, now the coach of the Arizona Wildcats, is 10 years older than Archie, who landed his first head coaching job this season, taking over at Dayton.
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Their relationship is a unique in that Archie has always viewed his older brother has a mentor rather than his rival. Sean would cheer on his brother in high school and continued to be one of his biggest fans when Sean moved on to become a deadly three-point shooter at Pittsburgh.
“He was a lot older than me, so I always looked up to him.” the younger Miller said. “I watched him play in high school and college when I was younger and I felt like he blazed a trail for me. I also got a lot of good advice from him while I was growing up.”
Sean clearly gave good advice because Archie not only turned out to be one of the better shooters in North Carolina State history, but the two worked together at Arizona before Archie took off for Dayton.
“He did an incredible job with me at Arizona and he played a big role in helping me get that program going in the right direction again,” Sean said. “I wish our time there would have lasted longer, but Archie had a golden opportunity in front of him. He had to take that job. I’m happy for him and proud of what he has accomplished.”
Sean and Archie are one of just two brother acts coaching Division I basketball. Bill Herrion (New Hampshire) and Tom Herrion (Marshall) are also head coaches at DI schools.
For the Millers, becoming coaches seemed like the right career path. After all, their dad John was one of the best high-school coaches in the state of Pennsylvania, winning more than 600 games and leading Blackhawk High School in Beaver Falls to four state titles.
Archie and Sean both played for their father and both don’t hesitate to point out the influence he had on them as people and as athletes.
“He is, by far, the biggest influence on me in terms of basketball,” Sean said. “He always spent a lot of time with our family and was a great basketball coach. He was, and still is, a great teacher and taught me a lot about the game and about life. A lot of what I do now as a coach comes from what I learned from him.”
“He had a big impact on me. The time he spent with me and my brother when we were growing up was so valuable,” Archie said. “He had a way of getting the most from his teams and he definitely prepared me for college basketball. I know I am in the position I am in today because of his influence on my life.”
After Sean carved out a reputation at Pittsburgh for being one of the best 3-point shooters in school history, pouring in 1,268 career points, he moved on to the next stage of his life.
He made stops at Wisconsin, Miami (Ohio), Pittsburgh and N.C. State before landing at Xavier in 2001. When Thad Matta left for Ohio State in 2004, Miller moved into the top job there and spent the next five seasons enjoying a remarkable run of success.
Xavier won 120 games under Sean, winning three Atlantic-10 titles and reaching the NCAA tournament four times. His 2007-08 team won 30 games and reached the Elite Eight.
His chance to take his career to another level arrived in 2009 as he took the job at Arizona. His brother chose to join him on the staff and together, they guided the Wildcats to a 16-15 record.
A year ago, the Wildcats rattled off 30 wins, won a Pac-10 title and reached the Elite Eight. The magical run ended with a loss to eventual national champion Conecticut. The Wildcats were beaten in gut-wrenching fashion, falling 65-63.
For Archie, those two years he spent with Sean in Arizona are among his favorite memories.
“It was a great opportunity for me because I always wanted to work on his staff,” Archie said. “I took a chance going out there with him, but it was well worth it. Sean has so much wisdom to offer and he has a great passion for coaching. I learned a lot from him in those two years and I know he will continue to be successful out there.”
Archie has had quite a journey as well on the road to becoming a head coach. After drilling 218 treys and becoming one of the top shooters in Wolfpack history, he worked at his alma mater for a season before becoming an assistant at Western Kentucky.
He ended up having another one-year stint at N.C. State before joining Mata at Ohio State. He worked with the Buckeyes from 2007 until 2009.
Archie said his playing experience is something he uses to his advantage as a head coach.
“I can go up to a kid and tell him I’ve been there before,” Archie said. “I know what it’s like to deal with success and failure, or deal with an injury. I don’t think you need to be former player to be a good coach, but I will say that my experience helps me as a coach.”
Sean and Archie still talk at least once a week. Sometimes, it’s about life in general. Basketball typically slips into the conversation, however, and both appreciate having someone they can relate to when it comes to life as a college basketball coach.
“He is a great sounding board for me,” Sean said. “We talk a lot of basketball and it’s nice to have someone who understands the challenges you are dealing with as a college basketball coach.”
Sean and Archie also share the same dreams. They are both determined to take their respective programs to an elite level.
For Sean, it’s about getting Arizona back to where it once was when the legendary Lute Olson was running the show.
“It’s an incredible challenge coaching here,” Sean said. “Lute built a great tradition at Arizona and the fans love their college basketball in this city. We had a great run last year and I want to continue to build this program up and keep it at the level fans expect it to be.”
Archie dreams of raising the profile of Dayton, The Flyers have a long history of basketball success and the younger Miller has high expectations for his program.
“Dayton is a special place with tremendous community support and I am very happy to be here,” Archie said. “I want us to play good basketball and have a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament. My goal is to get this program to a point where it can compete for championships.”