Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Familiarity and tradition has worked for Butler when executing coaching changes in the past, and it will have to work once more after watching Brad Stevens take an immense NBA leap of faith in agreeing to become the next head coach of the Boston Celtics. Butler wasted no time hiring Stevens’ replacement; shortly after his departure was made official Wednesday night, two candidates–Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan and Butler assistant Brandon Miller–were identified as the only two candidates with any conceivable shot at actually landing the job. Jordan was seen as the frontrunner, and for good reason: he is widely respected in Big Ten coaching circles, played and coached at Butler and was seen as the biggest guiding hand in elevating Trey Burke to First Team All-American/Lottery pick status.
In the end, Butler went with what has worked in the past. Miller is the fourth consecutive Butler coach to be promoted from within, a quintessential Bulldogs hire. And not only did Miller play and coach for the Bulldogs, he is also, like Stevens, Matta, and Lickliter before him, getting his first opportunity as a college head coach at the school. Fortunately for him, this job likely would have gone to former assistant Matt Graves, the current South Alabama head coach and star Butler guard widely presumed to be Stevens’ successor whenever the possibility of Stevens leaving – which was basically, like, any time a high major job opened up over the past three seasons – cropped up. Miller returned to the Bulldogs bench once Graves left for South Alabama, and unwittingly positioned himself for a promotion few college basketball people saw coming at this stage of the offseason. His profile aligns with everything Butler has sought in its recent coaching hires, but this time, the stakes are even higher, and Miller has a more difficult mandate than the other in-house hires that preceded him.