Arizona Basketball

With influx of college coaches in NBA should Arizona Wildcats be concerned of losing Miller?



Sean Miller has avoided talk of becoming a candidate for coaching vacancies other than Maryland after his second season in Tucson.

Sean Miller has avoided talk of becoming a candidate for coaching vacancies other than Maryland after his second season in Tucson.

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Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller could become an NBA coaching commodity judging from the growing trend of top young college coaches leaving to the next level.

The Chicago Bulls announced the hiring of Fred Hoiberg today, luring the him from Iowa State, a month after Billy Donovan left Florida to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Miller, who will coach his seventh season with the Arizona Wildcats in 2015-16, turns 47 in November. Donovan turned 50 last Sunday. Hoiberg is 42.

Brad Stevens, hired away from Butler by the Boston Celtics two years ago, is only 38.

Arizona Wildcats athletics director Greg Byrne, realizing how important Miller is to the basketball program, worked last week to get Miller a one-year contract extension to 2019-20 with a $100,000 salary increase.


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Miller is only 17 wins shy of reaching 300 coaching victories in only 11 seasons with Xavier and Arizona. His career record is 283-99.

A two-time Pac-12 coach of the year, Miller replaced Donovan as the Team USA Under 19 head coach three weeks ago.

He is proving himself to be a quality coach who can evaluate talent judging from his ability to annually amass highly-rated recruiting classes.

NBA owners and general managers must be impressed with Miller’s development of talent with the potential of five first-round draft picks under his watch at Arizona in a six-year span. The players include Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill, Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.


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The ESPN affiliate site for the New Orleans Pelicans — Bourbon Street Shots — ran a tournament recently to determine the team’s new head coach by fan vote. Miller’s name was among the 16 coaches involved in the voting.

Golden State Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry, also one of the 16 listed, was hired by the Pelicans on Saturday.

Miller advanced past Tony Bennett of Virginia into the second round against Hoiberg.

Arizona is safe for now with Miller. If Donovan and Hoiberg show success like Stevens in a short period, the trend of college coaches to the pros may continue. Miller’s name will inevitably come up.

Donovan is slated to coach Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with the Thunder. Hoiberg will coach a Bulls team that advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals behind Derrick Rose. Donovan and Hoiberg appear on their way to success.

The positive way for Arizona followers to look at this: They have a coach who is held in high regard, much like Lute Olson. Kentucky courted Olson early in his tenure at Arizona but stayed in Tucson.

Top coaches always have their names mentioned with job openings such as John Calipari, Kevin Ollie, Mark Few and Shaka Smart. That’s what happens when a program reaches elite status. Miller’s name, up to now, has only been mentioned as a candidate with the Maryland opening after his second season in Tucson.

The lofty stature of Arizona’s program, thanks to Miller’s ability to bridge the gap from when Olson left, means the program has evolved enough to not be a stepping stone for another college program. The NBA can be the enticing next step.

Going to the NBA from college was not en vogue before Stevens’ hiring by the Celtics.

Rick Pitino, Tim Floyd and Calipari left the college ranks for the NBA only to return to college coaching not long thereafter following unsuccessful stints.

The NBA is not a model for stability for head coaches. Only three have lasted longer than five seasons with their current team – Gregg Popovich of San Antonio, Erik Spoelstra of Miami and Rick Carlisle of Dallas.

Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams — coaches who led their teams to the NBA playoffs — were fired. Last year, Mark Jackson was not retained despite coaching the Warriors into the postseason.

NBA coaching casualties — Eric Musselman (Nevada) and Avery Johnson (Alabama) — reversed the trend recently and landed head coaching jobs in college.

Arizona fans in the years to come will hope Miller sees the advantage of prosperity and stability in Tucson rather than the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, cutthroat way of life in the NBA. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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