Lose tonight, and EIU’s chances of making the OVC tournament this season go from slim to all but none. They would not only need to win their final 4 OVC games, but hope that either Jacksonville State or Morehead State lose all of their remaining games, and hope they can win a tiebreaker.
As the title may suggest, many EIU fans have taken up the hashtag on Twitter of #FIREMIKEMILLER, something many fans have been calling for over the past few years. And the argument can easily be made to fire Miller based not only on the team’s performance this year, but last year as well. This team is a far cry from the squad that went 11-7 in the conference 2 years ago.
But the idea has been brought up, if Miller is fired, who does EIU find to replace him, and can they actually turn Eastern Illinois around? Given Belmont’s inclusion in the OVC next season, and with the Racers fortunes clearly rising, winning in the OVC may be more of a challenge than ever.
In the interest of full disclosure, I think EIU will fire Mike Miller at the end of the season. Miller’s contract is expiring, and I think it will hard to justify giving him an extension given the past 2 years.
But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right decision. That 2010 season was the team’s first winning season since 2001, and the injury to Tyler Laser last year is a contributing reason to their downfall in last season. This years team is rather young.
But those are just excuses. Tennessee State is young, but succeeding. Morehead State’s leading scorer went down early in conference play, yet they’re still safely in the tournament field. Other teams have overcome similar adversity that the Panthers haven’t.
I can’t blame fans for being upset with Miller, but Miller was a smart hire when the Panthers made it. Coming off a year as a Kansas State assistant, and having head coaching experience in the Southland Conference, including being named coach of the year, it’s a rather impressive resume for someone taking over a school that’s hasn’t had almost any history of success in a low-major conference, that’s suddenly looking to make mid-major status.
Some of this is a “Devil’s Advocate” type of argument: I’m not saying he shouldn’t necessarily not be fired, but how certain can you be that if Miller is fired, the school will find a better coach. He’s shown he can succeed at EIU, no small task, and he may be able to do so again. And does a tougher OVC entice better coaches to join, or scare them away from a school that’s had limited success in the past.
Again, I think Miller will be fired after this season. And I think that he probably should be fired, because EIU may risk losing fans if they keep him. But many of those fans will come back around if EIU starts winning, whether Miller’s there or not.
Is success 2 years ago enough to grant one more season? Possibly. It’s recent enough evidence to think he might be able to do it again.
TSU is hot, coming off a signature win at SEMO. They’ve won 5 straight, and 7 of 8, but SEMO only quality road win of bunch. Ivan Aska may return to the starting lineup tonight for the Racers.
SEMO looks to bounce back from a rough week, and what better team to bounce back against than hosting UT Martin.
Just 5 OVC games return for Eastern Illinois, who are 4 games behind in the win column from making the OVC tournament. Tennessee Tech is on a 3-game win streak, hoping to snag the 2nd seed.
[Last Night’s Scores]
Another big night for the Gamecocks suddenly resurgent offense leads to big road win, now four wins ahead of Eastern Illinois for final OVC Tournament spot. So is Morehead State.