There have been a lot of great coaching performances this season. Raise your hand if you thought Frank Haith would do what he’s done at Mizzou? Gregg Marshall has Wichita State playing as well as any team. Then there’s Steve Alford at New Mexico. Tom Crean has made IU relevant again and is the only coach to beat Kentucky. And of course there’s Wes Miller. Wes Miller has done….. Wait. Who?
In a little covered news story on December 13th, UNC-Greensboro fired head coach Mike Dement. Dement had done well in his first three seasons in Greensboro, but since then had gone 15-56. His team was awful. They had two wins. One against an NAIA school, and one against Towson who was on their way to setting a record for losses. So Dement was out, and assistant coach Wes Miller stepped in as the interim head coach. Miller didn’t generate much news himself by losing his first six games as head coach, though to be fair that slate included Duke, VCU, Miami and Davidson. And his players were used to losing. They did what was expected. They lost. They moved on.
If you happened into a UNCG game during the pre-game shoot-around there’s no way you’d pick out their head coach. Not only has he maintained his rebounding responsibility during pre-games, but Miller was 28 when he got the job (he turned 29 in January) and he looks like a walk-on with a tie. Those first few weeks as head coach were hard on him, but you couldn’t tell unless he was in an interview room. On the court he jumped and cheered and clearly had a genuine relationship with his players. Off the court he took lots of deep breaths. He rubbed his eyes. He sounded tired. He took the team over at 2-8, and after twenty-three days on the job his team was 2-14. So much for storybooks.
And then the College of Charleston happened.
Charleston is a good team. They beat Clemson. They beat UMass. They beat Tennessee. But UNCG went on the road and shocked them for their first Southern Conference win. It was a cute story, but nothing more. The baby faced interim had his first win. Yay.
Then UNCG went on the road and stunned the Citadel with an alley-oop in the final second to win. Then they beat Chattanooga. Then they beat Samford. Against Appalacian State UNCG blew a 7-point lead in the final 1:28, but held on in overtime for their 5th straight win. Win #6 was another overtime affair, this time against Western Carolina. Number 7 was an 82-71 win at home over the Citadel. It came to an end on the road against Furman, and the Spartans had a chance to fold their tents and wrap up what had become a fun story. Instead, they started a new streak. At Samford, a 2-point win. At Chattanooga, a defensive stop to hold on for a one-point win. Then at home against the team that started it all, the College of Charleston. A blowout for UNCG. Now they had a commanding 2-game lead in the north division of the conference. They’d gone 9-1. Last year this team won 7 games all season.
Athletics Director Kim Record had an announcement. It looked like Wes Miller was going to officially become the youngest head coach in Division I. The question was how much and for how long. The AD’s press release answered those questions announced that the University had hired a head hunting firm to find their next head coach. Wait. What?
In a State that has two major universities turning their hiring processes into circuses (NC State) and poor decisions (Wake Forest), it seems that UNCG wants to get in on the act. What more could they want from Miller? Is he a poor recruiter? Does he not know how to schedule his day? He’s got the hottest team in the country outside of Kentucky. He’s 29. His story is sellable. It’s UNCG!
This will be an interesting story to follow. For now they have three games left in the Southern Conference, beginning today, on the road, against Georgia Southern. Does Wes Miller honestly deserve votes for Coach of the Year? No, at least not on the National level. Does he deserve a shot to turn this program around? That’s a no-brainer.