Arizona Basketball

Sean Miller earns 300th career victory in Arizona’s win over Oregon State

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On Nov. 19, 2004, it all started for Sean Miller, his first game as a head coach when Xavier went against Oakland (Mich.) at the Musketeers’ Cintas Center.

Xavier won the game 69-58 in front of 10,097 fans, many of whom were students who showed up in mass for the Friday night game.

“I thought our student section set the tone for the game tonight in the first four minutes,” said Miller of the crowd, as quoted by Xavier’s Web site. “We have a lot of pride in our home court. One of the things that makes our home court unique is our students.”

At that time, Lute Olson was still riding high, leading the Wildcats to a 30-7 record. The year ended with that collapse against Illinois in the Elite Eight but no signs pointed to Olson nearing the end although he was 70.

Miller reached win No. 100 on Dec. 3, 2008, in an 81-74 win over Auburn at the Cintas Center.

True to his perfectionist image, Miller was critical of the Musketeers after the game calling their effort “lackadaisical”. He vowed to shake up Xavier’s starting lineup if necessary. That’s commendable. He has never changed from being focused on making his process work to the fullest.

Meanwhile, at Arizona, Olson had already retired because of health reasons. Russ Pennell was the interim coach when at first it seemed Olson would return from his first year of a leave of absence. That did not materialize.

Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood started his coaching search that season but after innuendos with Tim Floyd and rumors that Rick Pitino was in the picture, Livengood was fortunate to nab Miller.

Miller’s 200th win came against Miami 69-50 in a holiday tournament at Honolulu three seasons ago, on Dec. 23, 2012. The fourth-ranked Wildcats improved to 11-0 with that victory.

By that time, Miller coached the Wildcats to an Elite Eight in 2011. Coming off a disappointing NIT first-round loss at home to Bucknell the previous season, Arizona won three more games after that one against Miami to start 14-0 en route to a 27-8 record and Sweet 16 berth.

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SEAN MILLER (300-104, 12TH YEAR) MILESTONES

WIN NO. 1: Xavier over Oakland, 69-58, Nov. 19, 2004, Cintas Center, Cincinnati.

WIN NO. 50: Xavier over Fordham, 71-56, Jan. 11, 2007, Rose Hill Gym, The Bronx, N.Y.

WIN NO. 100: Xavier over Auburn, 81-74, Dec. 3, 2008, Cintas Center, Cincinnati

WIN NO. 150: Arizona over Stanford, 67-57, Jan. 9, 2011, McKale Center, Tucson

WIN NO. 200: Arizona over Miami, 69-50, Dec. 23, 2012, Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu

WIN NO. 250: Arizona over Mount St. Mary’s, 78-55, Nov. 14, 2014, McKale Center, Tucson

WIN NO. 300: Arizona over Oregon State, 80-63, Jan. 30, 2015, McKale Center, Tucson

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“We’re trying to be a team that can do some special things and I think that we want to be hard on ourselves,” Miller told reporters after earning win No. 200. “There’s always things that we can do better.”

Now comes win No. 300, earned with an 80-63 victory over Oregon State tonight, a game in which Miller commented at halftime that his team’s defense was lacking. “We have a hard time guarding anybody right now,” Miller told the Pac-12 Networks before heading to the locker room.

Miller, 300-104, reflected on his promising young career — he is only 47 — by noting after the game to the Pac-12 Networks: “This means a lot because we do this together. For me, I’ve coached at two of the greatest places to coach college basketball.

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“Xavier University … they took their chance on me (to start his career) and then here at the University of Arizona, which it doesn’t get any better. When you have the support and players like Gabe (York) it makes coaching a lot easier than it does at a lot of other situations.”

With his career-high 24 points with a career-best six three-pointers, York can always remind Miller down the road that he helped get him win No. 300.

By the time Olson earned his 300th career win, he was starting his 15th season as a head coach. He achieved that mark in Arizona’s season-opening win over New Mexico in 1988-89, the season after the Wildcats made their first Final Four appearance.

Mike Krzyzewski also achieved his 300th victory in his 15th season like Olson. Krzyzewski was only 43 while Miller is 47. Olson was 54 by the time he reached his 300th win.

The coaching journey has started in Miller’s favor. With his unmatched drive and unyielding style to get the most out of his high level of talent, Miller’s trek to 400, 500, 600, 700 or maybe even 800 or 900 career wins depends on how long he wants to coach. It is a matter of time.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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