Saturday began with Sean Miller as the Arizona Wildcats’ head basketball coach. Saturday ended with the same guy in the same position.
All is well in the Wildcat Universe.
At least until next time.
Let me make this clear: I am very glad Sean Miller is still the coach at Arizona. Nothing about the last two seasons has lessened my opinion that he has the potential to recruit, develop and coach at an elite level.
It’s no secret that other schools are going to try and lure him away. It’s understandable that East Coast programs are going to think they have a chance based on Miller’s geographic history.
So it wasn’t a surprise Maryland wanted to talk to Sean Miller. The same was said a couple months ago about North Carolina State.
The surprise was this time Miller listened.
We don’t know what he heard. We don’t know how serious he took the conversation. We do know UA athletic director Greg Byrne thought the situation was serious enough to announce he was doing everything in his power to “keep Sean Miller as our coach.” You don’t have to work on keeping someone who isn’t considering leaving.
A coach also doesn’t have to announce he’s committed to a program unless there are doubts about that commitment.
The source of the doubt is this: If Maryland was able to get a meeting, what’s going to happen when a real elite job opens up?
People were making it sound like Miller had no choice but to listen to the Terrapins. You can’t throw around terms like “top five job” and “top ten job” like they’re shoe sizes.
The top five college basketball jobs (in alphabetical order) are Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. After that you don’t have to think long to come up with a list of schools with greater and/or more recent success than Maryland: UConn, Florida, Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville, Ohio State… Yes, even Arizona.
When Gary Williams announced his retirement and Sean Miller’s name immediately came up, people debated if Maryland was a better job than N.C. State.
The comparison should’ve been between Arizona and Maryland and, using the same 20-year window, here are the results:
|Regular Season Titles||7||2|
|NCAA Tourney Bids||19||14|
|NCAA Tourney Wins||35||25|
It’s hard to argue Maryland is a step up, and yet Miller took the meeting.
What do the Terps have that the Cats lack? Location, location, location. That’s not going to change and it’s why Arizona fans are going to be on pins and saguaro needles every time a decent job opens up east of Willcox.
No, Sean Miller didn’t walk out on the marriage. He didn’t cheat on his basketball bride. But her self esteem took a hit and it will continue to waver if he keeps flirting with those cities with the fancy mass transit systems and sexy population density.
The best-case scenario is this past weekend was the speed bump in the Arizona/Miller marriage that solidifies the partnership for the long haul. Lute Olson was courted by Kentucky after – that’s right – his second season in the desert. In his autobiography Olson described how close he came to taking the UK job and how it came down to a gut feeling that “just didn’t feel right.”
By the time Kentucky came calling a second time four years later, Lute said the talks didn’t get nearly as far because his wife, Bobbi, decided she couldn’t leave their family.
That’s when this goes away. You need Miller to get to the point where being closer to family isn’t an issue because he is the family. When the kids and grandkids talk about going back home and they mean Tucson.
That’s when Sean Miller becomes a Lute Olson, Jim Boeheim, or even Gary Williams. Is Miller going to get there? Or will his wandering eyes lead him astray?
Arizona fans running the guy’s real-life wife off of Twitter isn’t going to help any.
When this merry-go-round starts up again, please – for our collective sanity – let’s try to handle it a little better next time. We the People of the Internet can’t blindly believe every report about a “done deal.”
We must also refrain from instantly handing out blame based on unnamed sources and publicly (yet anonymously) slandering people who – theoretically – we’re rooting for to help our favorite university win sporting events.
At least recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Chris Thomas know that UA fans get really worked up about Wildcat hoops.
So buckle up, Cat fans. We might not even get through the rest of the summer without another significant job opening. What if Coach K ends up with the Lakers? Or Jim Calhoun suddenly decides he wants to go out on top?
Basketball love knows no rebounds.
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