INDIANAPOLIS -- Brandon Miller is not Brad Stevens. Let's get that out of the way. Miller is his own man as the new Butler basketball coach, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get the Butler way. He's played it. He's coached it. And now that he's directing it, well, something new is something old.
That's a good thing.
“Team chemistry has always been a huge part of Butler,” he said. “If you ask, what are Butler's strengths, Butler plays with all five guys together. We're connected on both ends of the floor. It's part of our system. We play team ball on both ends of the floor. We work on it. You have to spend time on it. Getting better doesn't happen overnight, but if you do it right, it can happen.”
The Bulldogs made their public debut under Miller in Friday night's Blue-White scrimmage as part of the Big East's Tipoff Party that introduced the new conference to a national TV audience courtesy of Fox Sports.
More than 120 points were scored in 32 minutes of action at Hinkle Fieldhouse, which reflected solid offense and, at times, not so solid defense.
Yes, that defense will be addressed.
“There were way too many easy baskets,” Miller said. “When we give up an easy basket or a layup, that's not what our defense is built for. We had a couple of breakdowns on the defensive end, but it was caused by some pretty good offense and good execution.”
Butler has time to work on things before Tuesday's exhibition against Nova Southeastern.
“I don't know if it's something we have to fix,” Miller said, “but we have emphasized defense from Day 1. We continue to talk about it. It's a process that happens all year. We'll be at Game 25 and still talk about it. We'll take what happened tonight, tweak it and get better at it.”
The biggest change involving the switch from Stevens (who now runs the Boston Celtics) to Miller is that there is no change. Butler will still play physical defense. It will continue to feature efficient offense -- put five guys on the floor who can shoot -- that does not shy away from three-pointers.
Freshman guard Rene Castro showcased that with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the first half. He finished with nine points.
The leading scorer was freshman guard Elijah Brown with 19 points. That's not a surprise. He was an explosive scorer on consecutive California state title teams for Los Angeles Mater Dei High school his final two seasons.
“Elijah is an offensive player,” Miller said. “He can put the ball in the basket. He did that in high school. What you saw especially early was he came out with a ton of energy. He was ready to play. He made shots. He made some tough shots.”
Senior forward Khyle Marshall, Butler's leading returning scorer, had 18 points and six rebounds. Freshman forward Nolan Berry had 15 points. Senior forward Erik Fromm had 13 points and three rebounds.
The scrimmage emphasized flexibility, with players switching between blue and white teams.
“The guys played hard,” Miller said. “They competed. We can take a lot of things from this.”
Miller won't be immune to scrutiny even though he lost his top three scorers from last year's 27-9 team. Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith graduated. Roosevelt Jones suffered a season-ending wrist injury.
The move from the Atlantic 10 to the new Big East will be a challenge. And it's hard to replace a coach who led Butler to consecutive national title games, who went 166-49 in six college seasons and who never won fewer than 22 games.
That's especially true when you're just 33 years old and a head coach for the first time.
But on this night, it wasn't about Miller's challenge. It was about a team looking to build and grow.
“We look at it as an opportunity to get better,” he said. “It was good to play in front of a crowd. They guys had an extra pep in their step. It was good to see how they react.”