Most of his players never have been in a college game, his budget is limited and he’s in a league that didn’t exist four years ago.
Yes, things have changed for Eldon Miller, who until he was fired from Ohio State last winter had coached one of the nation’s most respected basketball programs in one of the nation’s most prestigious conferences, the Big Ten.
But Miller says he has everything he needs to make his new employer, the University of Northern Iowa, a winner. And he’s excited about what the future holds.
“I want to compete with anybody,” said Miller, who inherited a team that went 8-19 last season and has only five returning players. “We don’t have the financial resources of some of the other programs, but we have the things that are essential.”
Miller, who was Ohio State’s head coach for 10 years, was told by Athletic Director Rick Bay late last season that his contract wouldn’t be renewed.
Miller didn’t waste any time. He knew Northern Iowa was searching for a new head man because Coach Jim Berry was resigning at the end of the season, so he called Northern Iowa Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby. On Feb. 28, Miller became Northern Iowa’s coach.
It’s the fourth stop for Miller in a 26-year coaching career that includes 25 years as a head coach. Before succeeding Fred Taylor at Ohio State, he coached at Wittenberg and Western Michigan.
“I kind of like to move,” said Miller, adding he harbored no bitterness over what happened at Ohio State. “You don’t lose your good friends when you move away and you have a chance to make new friends.”
Miller said several factors influenced his decision to seek the job at Northern Iowa, a Division I school with an enrollment of 11,500 that plays in the Assn. of Mid-Continent Universities, known as the AMCU-8 for short.
He said the school has an excellent playing facility, the 8,200-seat UNI-Dome, and is strong academically. In addition, he said the administration “made a commitment to me and that was important to me. I also wanted to be in a situation to build a program and we have that opportunity now.”
Miller said that from coaching his Ohio State teams in sold-out games at the University of Iowa, “I had experienced the enthusiasm for basketball by Iowans first-hand for 10 years.”