Villa 7 delivers A-10 coaching stars

Coaches are a well-traveled group of individuals. The journey from assistant to head coach comes full of stops and in both Archie Miller and Shaka Smart’s case, that meant a combined 10 coaching destinations before landing in the positions that ultimately brought them stardom.

Archie Miller (right) with brother Sean when the now Dayton head coach assisted his older sibling in Arizona.
Archie Miller (right) with brother Sean when the now Dayton head coach assisted his older sibling in Arizona.

Miller, a 2002 NC State grad, made stops in four total conferences before landing in the A-10, including two Pac-12 gigs at a pair of Arizona schools.

Smart, a star point guard at DII Kenyon College, actually spent two years at Miller’s current location some eight years prior, the first of four D1 assistant coaching stops before former VCU AD, Norwood Teague, hired the unknown 33-year old.

Both have advanced their teams to at least the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament by their third seasons at their respective schools and because of that success will be targets for ADs looking to take their programs deep into March as well.

And it’s because of this type of targeting that VCU created the Villa 7 program that allowed both schools to find the two under-40 stars that have elevated their respective programs to new heights in the Atlantic 10 conference.

You see, Shaka Smart replaced Anthony Grant at VCU who had placed Jeff Capel before him, all of whom had increased levels of success with the Rams. The later of the two — a combined 213-71 in eight seasons at VCU — were both discovered by a group of VCU administrators that included Mike Ellis (now Senior Associate AD at Minnesota). In 2004 after the then 29-year old Capel led the Rams to a CAA championship and a near-upset of a Chris Paul-led Wake Forest team in the NCAA tournament, Ellis knew it wouldn’t be long before bigger schools came calling and the Rams would have to replace their hot young coach (who would coach two more seasons before leaving for Oklahoma). He gathered roughly 20 administrators and 30 assistant coaches at the No.7 Villa of the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, and thus the Villa 7 Consortium was born.

Since that initial gathering, Villa 7 has invited top assistants from around the country to meet with ADs in essentially the ultimate speed-dating of college hoops. Young up-and-comers are given the chance to meet and impress ADs while administrators are able to build a database of impressive young talent around the country.

Past examples of that talent have included Steve Wojciechowski, Orlando Antigua, Brad Underwood, Andy Enfield, Chris Mack, Buzz Williams, Josh Pastner, Jon Groce and many others including the A-10’s hottest young coaches in Smart and Miller.

Smart attended the event in 2007 and 2008 before becoming VCU’s head coach in 2009 after Anthony Grant, a previous Villa 7 attendee as a Florida assistant, swapped his coaching duties at VCU for the same gig at Alabama.

Miller attended in 2010 as an Arizona assistant and was among a group that included Andy Enfield, Pat Skerry and Craig Neal (to name of few), all of whom have landed D1 head coaching jobs since.

Smart has led the Rams to four consecutive NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at VCU, including the Rams’ magical 2011 season that resulted in a Final 4 trip. He won a CBI Championship the season prior.

Miller has led the Flyers to two postseason births including an NIT appearance in his first season then a trip to the Elite 8 as the A-10’s last man standing this past season.


Mat Shelton-Eide has been involved in college athletics since 2007, starting as a co-founder of where he covered the Rams all the way...