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New Butler coach passes another test, this time in recruiting

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Lyles keeps Bulldogs on final list despite coaching change

Saturday, July 13, 2013 - 2:23 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Brandon Miller has spent a lot of time on “pins and needles” lately. However, the first period of anxiousness he endured paid off when he was named as Brad Stevens' replacement to lead the Butler men's basketball program a week ago today.

Whether or not his next test is passed, which is to secure the services of heralded recruit Trey Lyles, remains to be seen. But Miller is still in the process of completing that challenge, so that in itself is a positive.

Miller learned last Wednesday afternoon that his professional future was in doubt after Stevens called his coaching staff into his office to inform them that he was leaving to accept the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics.

Miller called his wife, Holly, and said “there was a lot to talk about.”

He interviewed twice over the next 24 hours with Bulldog athletic director Barry Collier, then sat back and waited through Saturday morning for Collier's final answer.

“You always wish that you had more time to prepare to be sitting and being interviewed,” Miller said. “I didn't have my book (of information) ready, but at the same time, you prepare as you move along in this business.

“You try to think like a head coach when you are an assistant coach. And you try to put your way of doing things together as you go along.”

Miller's initial “way of doing things” was to focus not on potential Butler players, but the existing Bulldogs.

“My first priority through this process was our players,” Miller said. “That was my first priority when everything (with Stevens) took place. “

Miler wasted no time in reestablishing the camaraderie with what was now his team. He had a team meeting on Sunday, which was followed by team workouts within 48 hours of his hiring. He spent two days earlier this week meeting individually with the players, and the result is that not one of the 10 returning players, nor any of the six freshmen, who have already enrolled in school, have announced any intentions of leaving the program.

“I tried to spend as much time with the players as I could,” Miller said.

That was his focus earlier this week, however, once Wednesday at 5 p.m. arrived, which marked the first of three five-day windows this month to evaluate recruits, Miller was on the road to the Peach Jam tournament in Augusta, Georgia to follow Lyles' every move.

“We have reached out to recruits,” Miller said, “and we've gotten very good reception.”

Lyles believed in Miller's sales pitch enough to keep the Bulldogs on his list, which he announced on Thursday had eliminated UCLA and Duke, but Butler, Louisville, Kentucky and Florida remained.

“Butler is a heckuva place,” Miller said. “People see that, especially once they've been here.”

The 6-foot-8 Lyles is rated as the fifth best recruit in the country and having attended Arsenal Tech High School just a long jump shot from Butler's campus, is very familiar with the university and its men's basketball program.

“When the recruits have seen the university and been in the classrooms, and met the people here,” Miller explained, “Butler is Butler. To be able to pick up the phone and get that (positive) reception from the recruits has been a good feeling.”

Miller stressed at his introductory news conference that he was not Brad Stevens, he was Brandon Miller, and there would be differences in how the program is operated – to a degree. But earlier this week, Miller was clear that what makes Butler a unique and special program is its culture and points of emphasis, which will not be altered.

“You want to put things out on the table and say 'Hey, this is what I believe in,'” Miller said. “What I believe in, the philosophy in terms of what is going on here, the 'Butler Way,' keeping the culture and environment in place, having a value-based basketball program, which matches the university's (philosophy), all of those things were happening before coach Stevens.

“That is something that I believe in, and it is my job as the head coach to make it continue.”