As hoped for by Xavier fans since news of Travis Steele’s departure broke and first reported by everyone on Twitter simultaneously, Xavier has signed Sean Miller to coach the men’s basketball team.
Miller is a home run hire for the Musketeers - he led the program to one of their most successful stretches and only left when Arizona cut him a monster check - but there’s plenty of work to do to turn that potential into reality. Here are three things Miller has to figure out right away to make sure he hits the ground running in November.
Who stays from the current staff?
Jonas Hayes is probably priority 1A here. He has been mentioned in the mix for high-major job openings, and he is an excellent recruiter, often dipping into the south to put Xavier in the mix for players they have no business landing. He’s currently head man for however long the Muskies play in the NIT (unless Miller wants to take the wheel of a moving vehicle, which I doubt); will he want to come back to slide back into an assistant role? Or will he head elsewhere to start his own career in the driver’s seat?
The rest of the staff is also under review. Dante Jackson has established a solid reputation as a recruiter; Danny Peters is more of an Xs-and-Os guy who was brought in to help Steele develop in that regard. Jackson played for Miller at Xavier and Peters worked with him at Arizona; Miller has to decide if they’re part of the future at Xavier.
It’s not all about recruiting when you’re an assistant coach. Player development was a question under Steele; it’s worth inspecting how much of that came down to people farther down the bench and if someone should be replaced to remedy the issue.
Can Miller re-recruit Steele’s class?
Kam Craft, Desmond Claude, and Tyrell Ward combine to make up the highest-rated class in Xavier basketball history. All of them committed to play at Xavier under Travis Steele. It’s tough to get kids to commit to a school because recruiting is such an intensely competitive environment. No doubt people will be in the ears of all three members of this class to try to pull them away from Xavier, but Miller is a talented recruiter in his own right. I don’t see any reason he wouldn’t want to bring all three to campus, but whether or not he can get it done will be an early bellwether on his roster construction.
Who fits Miller’s version for his second era at Xavier?
Neither Paul Scruggs nor Nate Johnson has the option to return to Xavier due to the NCAA’s eligibility limitations. Beyond that, Miller has a series of quick assessments to make and - if necessary - sell to the players involved. To wit:
- Dieonte Miles will be 21 years old when next season tips off. He never earned Steele’s trust for big minutes; does Miller think he’s part of a successful Big East team?
- Both Kyky Tandy and Ben Stanley have been successful when healthy, but neither has been consistently healthy for some time; does Miller think they’ve retained the ability to make a difference when they’re back to full go? Does he trust them to ever be fully healthy again?
- Who has other options? When Steele looked slated to come back, rumors were abounding that any number of Xavier’s returning starters who still had eligibility and hadn’t transferred in from Iowa may have heard from other teams letting them know there was interest if their names hit the portal. That hasn’t evaporated just because X has signed the best coach available; Miller needs to sell the right guys on his vision for the team.
I can’t imagine many new coaches having a stronger sales pitch to the team they’re taking over than Miller does just by printing out his history page on KenPom and handing out copies. The dude knows how to win and has done it everywhere he has gone. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future returns though; Miller has to put in the same work he always has from the word go to get Xavier back to full speed in as short a time as possible.