Miller brothers with basketball pedigree continue tournament run
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.
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 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.''
John Miller was a legendary high-school coach in western Pennsylvania who won four state titles and more than 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 NC 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 he modeled his program after the success the brothers had together in Arizona.
''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.''
Now the brothers are headed to the Elite Eight together.
Dayton, the darlings of the 2014 NCAA tournament, took down another higher-seeded team, stiff-arming Stanford in Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday night to reach the regional final for the first time since 1984.
Arizona, the top seed in the West, had a much tougher time getting through, laboring through most of its game against San Diego State before wearing down the Aztecs in Anaheim, Calif., to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in four years.
They're now a game away from the Final Four and, dare we say it, an all-brothers championship game in Texas.
''We're both alive,'' Sean said.
The Flyers weren't supposed to be here.
The 11th seed in the South Region, they opened the first full day of the tournament with a bracket-crumpling win against Ohio State and proved it was no fluke by taking down Syracuse to reach the second weekend.
Not satisfied with that, Dayton (26-10) took it to another favorite in one of the early games Thursday night, using its 12-deep roster to wear down No. 10 seed Stanford 82-72 in a third consecutive upset.
Next up for the Flyers is a date with top-overall seed Florida on Saturday.
''It was a true team effort,'' Archie said. ''That's what they've been about all year, so it's nice to see on the biggest stage, us be ourselves.''
The Wildcats weren't themselves until the game was on the line, which, in a way, is just being themselves.
Arizona (33-4) labored most of the game against San Diego State, burned by offensive rebounds in the first half and unable to get some of its best players going.
The Wildcats have had a knack for wearing teams down by the end of games and they did it again against the Aztecs, pulling out a 70-64 victory after Nick Johnson scored all 15 of his points in the final 2:45.
Arizona moves on to face another defense-oriented team in the Elite Eight, against Wisconsin on Saturday night in Southern California.
''We were tested in a huge way,'' Sean said.