Arizona head coach Sean Miller has won three Pac-12 titles in his six years at Arizona.
That’s really good.
Miller’s 50% championship rate is so good it puts him on par with the coaching legends of Wildcat basketball.
When the UA took down Utah in Salt Lake City it secured a share of the league title. The Cats’ runaway victory over Cal on Thursday night locked up the outright crown.
It is Arizona’s 27th conference championship and, as we discussed last year, Wildcat Universe should never get tired to celebrating these things. Finishing at the top of the standings after 18 games is difficult even if Miller and UA coaches before him have made it look easy.
When it comes to winning the Pac-12, the sixth-year UA coach is now batting .500. That puts him right on pace with Lute Olson’s 11 championships in 23 seasons (48%) at Arizona. Olson also had three conference titles in his first six seasons in Tucson.
Miller is also equal to Fred A. Enke’s pace from the 1930s. Arizona’s first basketball coaching great won three Border Conference championships in the first six years after the league was formed. Enke ended up with 12 titles in 28 years (43%) of conference play.
If you add in Miller’s time at Xavier his batting average goes even higher. He won the Atlantic 10 three times in five seasons with the Musketeers giving him six titles in 11 seasons (55%) as a head coach.
Three championships on the Atlantic and now three on the Pacific. Arizona can boast of its coach being a winner from coast to coast.
Miller’s mark compares favorably to the best in the business today. Mike Krzyzewski won his first ACC title in year six at Duke. John Calipari won five in eight years at UMass (including five straight), five in nine years at Memphis (four straight) and now three in six years at Kentucky for a total of 13 in 23 seasons (57%).
Everyone, however, is looking up at Bill Self, the gold standard for conference championships. Self won two in three years at Tulsa, two in three years at Illinois and now 11 in 12 years (and 11 straight) at Kansas. That’s 15 in 18 seasons, or 83%. Whoa.
For Arizona this is the 14th conference championship since joining the Pac-10, the most in the conference during that time. The 12th outright title broke a tie with UCLA for the lead in that category.
(Your Pac-12 tournament week bar bet: Name the school with the third-most hoops championships in the Pac-10+ era. It’ll take Joe Fan a lot of guesses before he comes up with Oregon State.)
If Arizona wins another Pac-12 championship before Cal does (all signs point to yes), the UA would tie the Bears for the second-most league titles in Pacific Coast Conference / Athletic Association of Western Universities / Pacific-8/10/12 Conference history.
(It’s worth noting that Cal won 14 of its 15 championships before Arizona joined the conference.)
(Probably not worth noting: This is the first time the UA went exactly 16-2 in conference play since 1943. Lute finished 17-1 five times and 15-3 three times but never went 16-2.)
When Miller won the 2011 Pac-10 championship it was Arizona’s first in six years. It’s a reminder that he took over the Arizona Basketball brand but did not inherit Olson’s finely-tuned machine. The program that has won back-to-back titles is Sean’s own.
Nobody needs to remind Miller he may possess half the regular season titles since he arrived in Tucson but he has not yet won a Pac-12 tournament championship. And everybody knows he owns three trips to the Elite Eight but has never been to the Final Four.
Those are new challenges that begin this week. But today, right now, don’t forget to pause and appreciate conference championship number three, 14 and 27.
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