Miami introduces Steele as men’s basketball coach

OXFORD -- When Travis Steele was starting out as a basketball coach, leading high school age kids in Indianapolis 20 or so years ago, he often would drive them to visit college campuses, including Miami.

Steele now will be entertaining potential RedHawk recuits in Oxford after being formally introduced on Friday as Miami’s men’s basketball coach.

“I’ve long had an affinity for Miami,” the former Xavier coach said after opening remarks by Director of Athletics David Sayler before a larger-than-usual media group and several fans, including Steele’s wife, Amanda, sons Winston and Anderson and his parents. “It was beautiful back then, and it’s even better today.

“I’ve always had great respect for Miami. Other schools called, but I didn’t know anything about them and wasn’t sure I could have success there.”

Steele, who left Xavier after going 70-50 in four seasons during his first job as a college head coach, agreed to a six-year contract with a $300,000 base salary as the replacement for Jack Owens, who was 70-83 in five seasons as Miami’s coach before he and the program – in Miami’s terminology – “parted ways” on March 23.

The Miami job was Owens’ first as a head coach after working as a Purdue assistant. Sayler and Miami decided to take different approach this time.

“We focused on Division I head coaches,” Sayler said. “That was our No. 1 priority. We locked in on that group. I was getting calls from numbers I didn’t recognize and people I’d never heard of who somehow got my cellphone number.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Sayler heard from about 25 coaches or their agents, he said.

“My battery kept dying,” he added.

Sayler needed to spend just 15 minutes with Steele to sense that the Indiana native was right for the RedHawks.

“I asked him where his head was at,” Sayler said. “He said was motivated to get right back into it and have success. Other than his family, basketball is his life.”

Steele, whose departure from Xavier was announced on March 16, needed just a few days of not being a coach to realize he needed to work.

“My family and I went to Florida, and after a couple of days, I’m like, ‘This is boring,’” he said., adding with a smile, “I want my wife to love me, but I think she’d love me more if I had a job.”

In addition to recruiting two nationally-ranked classes among the top 20 as head coach, each of his student-athletes graduated during his time at Xavier. As an assistant at XU, he also helped secure two top-10 nationally-ranked recruiting classes, made four NCAA Tournament appearances—twice advancing to the Sweet Sixteen—and won a conference championship.

Steele has coached at the high school, AAU, junior college and Division I levels. He has held nearly every role on a staff – from volunteer, to graduate assistant, to assistant coach, to video coordinator, to director of operations to head coach.

He was hired as the director of basketball operations at Xavier in 2008 before being elevated to assistant coach in 2009 and then associate head coach in 2015, and ultimately, head coach in 2018. Prior to Xavier, Steele worked on the staff at Indiana University. He joined the Hoosiers in August of 2006, taking on the duties of video coordinator. He also served as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Wabash Valley College (2005-2006) and spent a year with the Ohio State basketball program as a graduate manager (2004-2005) under Thad Matta.

From 2001 through 2006, Steele was a coach for the Spiece/Indiana Adidas Elite AAU Basketball program. Steele also was an assistant varsity coach at Ben Davis High School while attending Butler University. He earned his undergraduate degree in business from Butler, where he graduated cum laude in marketing in 2004.

Steele inherits a program that hasn’t won a Mid-American Conference regular-season championship since the 2004-2005 season or a MAC Tournament championship since the 2006-2007 season, which also is the last season the RedHawks qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

Steele was unable to lead Xavier to an NCAA Tournament appearance, as head coach a four-year drought that was the program’s longest since going from 1962 through 1982 without making an appearance. The brother of Akron coach John Groce is confident he can end the RedHawks’ slump, especially after spending hours since he was hired watching video of RedHawk games.

“It’s been whirlwind, but I know Miami well,” Steele said. “I know the MAC well.”

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