INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Butler found its next basketball coach the same place it usually does – inside the family.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs announced they were promoting recently hired assistant coach Brandon Miller as Brad Stevens’ replacement. The decision came three days after Stevens surprised everyone by taking the head job with the Boston Celtics.
But like Stevens and his predecessors Todd Lickliter and Thad Matta, the Bulldogs didn’t have to look far to find the next coach.
“We share a lot of the same characteristics in terms of our philosophy and the way we coach,” Miller said of Stevens. “At the same time, he’s left Butler University in great shape and that’s what makes this a great job. The goals we had a week ago are the same goals we have today.”
Starting forward Khyle Marshall said Wednesday that the players had been virtually assured that the next coach would have a Butler background.
“I think definitely that played a huge role because we have a guy that’s been in the program and understands the program,” point guard Alex Barlow said.
Only two candidates’ names were bandied about – Miller, a former Butler star who was just rehired by Stevens as an assistant coach in April, and Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan, another Butler alum and former Bulldog assistant.
“I am confident that Brandon will carry on the Butler University basketball tradition of excellence, especially as we make the transition to the Big East Athletic Conference,” athletic director Barry Collier said in a statement.
“As a player, assistant coach, and person, Brandon has exemplified the Butler Way and brings a blend of energy, talent and integrity to this role. With Brandon’s leadership, Butler is well positioned to expand upon the success of the last few years.”
For Miller, it’s a remarkable ascension after taking a one-year hiatus from college basketball just two years ago.
He takes over a program that finished as NCAA tournament runner-ups in 2010 and 2011 and then reached the regional semifinals last season after missing the tourney in 2012. Their continual postseason runs made Butler one of the most recognizable mid-major programs in the nation and allowed them to move from the Horizon League to a much stronger Atlantic 10 last season and now on to the re-formed Big East next season.
But the Bulldogs couldn’t afford a protracted search for Stevens’ successor.
Recruiting kicks into high gear next week, and the Bulldogs are scheduled to make an overseas trip to Australia in early August.
In Miller, though, Butler knows what it’s getting.
“What I know for sure is it’s going to be a Butler guy, a guy who knows our identity as a team and who is not going to change our identity,” Marshall said Wednesday. “I think we’ll be pretty comfortable with whoever the guy is.”
Miller knows the Bulldogs’ background as well as anybody.
A native of New Castle, Ind. — the same hometown as UCLA coach Steve Alford — Miller started his college career at Southwest Missouri State. He transferred to Butler in 1999 and became one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in school history.
“I look at the university and the basketball program and the first thing I think about is the Butler Way,” Miller said. “This university is a value-based place and that will not change. This is a very, very special place.”
He finished his career with 1,121 points, 189 3-pointers and 305 assists, earning all-league honors and all-league defensive honors. As a senior in 2003, he was the co-MVP of the Bulldogs team that beat Louisville in the NCAA tourney and reached the regional semifinals for the first time in four decades.
Following his college career, Miller joined the staff of Ohio State coach Matta, whom he played for at Butler. He spent six total seasons under Matta — three as an assistant and two as director of basketball operations, though he coached at Butler in 2007-08 before rejoining Matta’s staff. Miller took a year off from coaching in 2011-12 season, returning last season as a special assistant for Illinois coach John Groce.
Stevens then rehired Miller in April after his top assistant, Matthew Graves, accepted the head coaching job at South Alabama.
“When I think of a basketball coach, that’s what I hope to be,” Miller said of Stevens.