Seeing Indiana University women’s basketball head coach Curt Miller’s resignation announcement pop up in my inbox was shocking.
Fresh off tying the program record for wins in a season and leading the Hoosiers to the WNIT quarterfinals, I struggled to comprehend why he would leave his self-described “dream job.”
In his letter of resignation to IU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Fred Glass, he cited personal health and family reasons. His departure leaves big shoes to fill in leading a program he resurrected.
The year before Miller was hired, IU won only six games. In 2012, Miller’s first year at the helm, IU nearly doubled that number, winning 11 games.
This past season, what would end up being his last, the Hoosiers won their first 14 games, setting the record for best start in program history. In that stretch, the Hoosiers were ranked No. 22 in the Jan. 6 Associated Press Poll, its highest-ever national ranking.
Miller also led the Hoosiers to a WNIT bid, its seventh appearance in the tournament and first since 2009.
The postseason play is an impressive accomplishment. IU’s wins over Belmont, Marquette and Northwestern set the record for most ever postseason victories in program history.
But considering the program’s struggles up until this past season, the 21 victories might be an even bigger feat as it tied the program record for wins in a season. Some of the seniors on Miller’s team from last year won a combined 16 games their freshmen and sophomore years before Miller arrived.
He also recruited freshman accounted for 61.9 percent of IU’s scoring last season. The 1,466 points scored also ranked top five nationally in point production among freshman classes.
Not many realize he also grew the fan base of the program. Since Miller arrived in 2012, attendance rose by 50 percent per game.
The program also set an attendance record under Miller’s leadership in 2013-14, averaging 2,708 fans per game. That number ranked 35th nationally.
I had the privilege of covering the team’s historic season last year and witnessed how much passion and energy he brought to the sidelines. In my interviews with Miller throughout the season, he often mentioned how his team is a “scout-heavy” team that watches a lot of film. It showed in my conversations with him – he practically had the scouting report and game tape on IU’s next opponent memorized.
The enthusiasm and attention to detail Miller has for the game is what makes him a great coach. Five times in the last nine years he’s been named a finalist for the WBCA Coach of the Year Award. He is one of three coaches to win the award five or more times during that nine-year period, the other coaches being Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer.
Miller frequently talked about a “six-year plan” during his time as head coach. Though he won’t be able to oversee the next four years, he was able to accomplish a lot for the program in those short two years.
Hopefully, he’ll be able to return in good health and see out his plan.