After a 14-18 2021-2022 season, Miami University hired former Xavier head coach Travis Steele, age 40, to replace Jack Owens as the head coach of its men’s basketball team.
Steele spent 14 seasons at Xavier, including the last four as head coach. He recorded a 70-50 record and made two postseason appearances during his time at the helm of the Musketeers.
Steele spent his early years coaching AAU and high school teams in Indiana. He fell in love with Miami around that time because he used to bring his players to Oxford to witness the beauty of the campus. He said “the Miami brand” drew him into becoming the 28th men’s head coach in school history.
“When you think of college, you think of a place like Oxford,” Steele said.
Miami’s strong basketball tradition was a big draw for Steele.
“You think of all the NBA players that have played here,” Steele said. “This is the winningest program in the [Mid-American Conference].”
Miami has won 21 league titles and made 26 postseason appearances.
Unfortunately, the RedHawks have not been able to keep up with their historical success for over a decade.
The RedHawks produced one winning season in the 2010s. They have not claimed a conference regular-season title since 2005. Additionally, they haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2007, which is also the last time they won a conference tournament championship.
Although he had other job offers, Steele believes that he has a great opportunity to reestablish the Miami brand.
“I just felt that this is a sleeping giant when you look at the whole profile: the campus, the academics, the basketball tradition,” Steele said. “It’s all there.”
When looking to fill its head coaching vacancy, Miami knew Steele was the guy to turn things around.
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"Travis Steele brings with him an exceptional recruiting pedigree and results," said Miami Director of Athletics David Sayler in a press release. "He also brings unmatched energy, a CEO-like-vision for where Miami Basketball can and should go, and a relentless work ethic to match that vision. He is the right person to raise our program to the next level and put us back in the upper echelon of the Mid-American Conference and beyond."
One of the reasons that may contribute to the RedHawks’ lack of recent success has been recruiting.
In four of the last five years Miami failed to recruit a comparable class to MAC rivals. The 2021 class did not have a single name listed on 247Sports.
But luckily for Miami, they hired a recruiting ace.
At Xavier, Steele brought in a nationally ranked class every year as head coach, including two ranked in the top-20. As an assistant, he helped secure two top-10 nationally-ranked classes. His groups featured many 4-star athletes, a type of player that Miami has never seen.
Steele believes that he is a successful recruiter because of the trust he builds with players.
“Do they trust [me] at the end of the day?” Steele asked. “If they don’t, then you are not going to get them. If they do trust you, I think you got a chance.”
Steele hopes to continue his success recruiting high-level talent at Miami. He knows that there are good enough players to compete for conference titles within a five-hour radius. Having coached around this area his entire career, he has many relationships that can help him find them.
To get a desired high schooler to commit to Miami, Steele wants to hammer to prospective families the academic advantage of playing for the RedHawks.
“Miami sticks out like a sore thumb, in a good way, amongst all the other MAC schools when you look at the academics,” explained Steele. “It’s the best school, and it’s got the best campus. We’ve got a lot to sell here.”
The ball does not bounce forever. Few players make the professional ranks, and most of those who do only last a couple of years. Those players need an education to carry them through the rest of their lives.
“Once you get a Miami degree, you’re set for life,” Steele said.
Steele wants to bring in players that fit the new four core values of the program.
“Number one is we compete at every moment,” Steele explained. “Number two we carry our brother, which is being invested in your teammates both on and off the court. Third one is we embody undeniable confidence, which is having swagger, you know, having that belief. And the fourth thing is strive for magus, which is basically striving for more, constantly having that growth mindset.”
Once Steele gets the right young men in the locker room, it is go time. He will work all spring and summer to develop players that can win games.
Currently, Miami does not have a commit in the 2022 class. Despite being the head coach for less than a month, Steele has traveled to visit families and watch games in Ohio, Michigan and Virginia to find players that would fit his vision for the program. He is determined to bring the Miami brand back.