INDIANAPOLIS – Applause was the first emotion shown in the room. Then it was followed by tears.
“Brandon Miller, Butler Class of 2003,” said Butler athletic director Barry Collier as he put his hand on the shoulder of his new basketball coach Saturday afternoon at Hinkle Fieldhouse’s Wildman Room.
It was Collier that helped to bring Miller to Butler as a player after he decided to transfer from Southwest Missouri State following the departure of Steve Alford from that school back in 1999. Fourteen years later, now athletic director Collier was welcoming in his former student back for a bigger role at his alma mater.
“I think we’re in great hands with building a team,” said Collier of the hire of Miller, who replaces Brad Stevens after he left to coach the NBA’s Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Miller was recently hired as an assistant coach by Stevens to replace Matt Graves, who became the head coach at South Alabama. Last season Miller was a special assistant to coach John Groce at Illinois, one of the many stops that he had since playing for the Bulldogs from 2000-2003.
“I’m extremely humbled to have this opportunity,” said Miller in front of a packed audience at the Wildman Room that included his wife Holly and two boys.
In the end Miller was chosen over former Butler players and current Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan who also interviewed for the job. Collier pointed out the quality of the candidates for the position but believed that Miller’s repeated involvement with the program put him over the top.
“There’s something special about somebody that’s had a chance to be apart of this program for a long time under some of it’s best days, being coached by and coaching with Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter and Brad Stevens,” said Collier when asked what put Miller over the top of the rest of the candidates. “That gives you a special background here.
“Brandon is incredibly bright, he’s got the utmost integrity.”
Whether it was enough to earn him the head coaching job, according to Miller, didn’t enter his mind much following Stevens’ taking of the Celtics job on Wednesday. Admittedly a bit stunned by the move, Miller didn’t immediately believe that the job was his to win or lose.
“When your in the coaching world you try to be prepared as best you can and, I know this, when Coach Collier reached out to me, I was extremely, extremely excited,” said Miller of the process of becoming the head coach. “I thought I was prepared and then at that moment you go through all the things that can happen in the next couple of days.
“You hunker down and you get after it but I don’t know if ever said ‘Hey this is my shot.’ I do think that the process from when he left till now was well ran and I’m glad to be sitting where I’m sitting.”
It’s much different from two years ago when Miller, then in his third year as an assistant coach at Ohio State, decided to take a year off to spend more time with his family. It came eight years after he began his career as a video intern under Matta at Xavier and the small break gave the coach a chance to catch his breath.
“I’ve tried to make the best for myself and my family and at that point and time that was the best decision for myself and my family. In stepping away I think it gave me some perspective in terms of how I was going to coach in the future, who I was going to be as a father. I learned a lot from it.”
“To be able to get back into the coaching world and to be able to be in the positions that I’ve been in coaching, coach with the guys that I’ve coached with, I’m extremely thankful and I feel blessed.”
His former coach, with an early news conference pat on the back, showed the same.