Sean Miller is a 24/7, 365-day head college basketball coach. Well, maybe a 360-day or so coach. Rarely does he shut it off.
That’s what I hear when I talk to those who may know him or think they know him. He’s basketball all the time. That’s the first thing you get when you spend enough time writing about him a time or two … or 200.
Thursday, in meeting with the local media for the first time in a few months, he looked fresh and ready to go. His weight – a big story last season – is still in check and you get a sense if he had eligibility left he’d be an older version of T.J. McConnell.
“I’m very refreshed,” Miller said in preparation for the 2016-17 season. “It’s remarkable what Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim have done and how much time they give in the summers and how hard it is. And then come back and coach again.”
The last two years – at UA and with Team USA – were hardly the easiest of years. He was part of two gold medals, where losing for Team USA isn’t an option (or so it seems). Then there was the Elite 8 and last season’s first-round exit.
But Miller, 47, gave Team USA up last year. His two years as a coach – one as an assistant and one as a head coach last year – had him away for long periods of time.
He did admit being part of all that made him a better coach, but the time and commitment takes its toll.
“Not until it’s over do you realize that the summer is gone and you’re back right at it,” he said.
This year is different, given the circumstances.
“Not having to (do) that was good because he had more time to spend with his family,” said Ryan Reynolds, who is the team’s director of basketball operations and has been with Miller more than anyone on his staff.
Whether it was a nice trip to the White Mountains to spend time in his cabin or just hanging at home in Tucson, Miller did that.
“(Family is) all you have,” he said. “… Late September is like a time when you can take a deep breath and you’re allowed to coach basketball more. It’s a refreshing time for a lot of coaches.”
And, so we are here, where, in days, basketball will once again consume him. It’s in his blood and, well, you need blood. Basketball, and all that it brings, is his normal. So, he’s seemingly always at it. He’s seemingly always diagramming plays when not on the court. Always tinkering with this or that.
“When he (starts) the diagrams I know I’ll have to come back later,” Reynolds said.
So Reynolds picks his spots, especially around this time of year. The next two days will be about basketball, but not as heavy. Come Sunday, it gets heavy with the first official practice. When the media was about 30 minutes removed from speaking with Miller on Thursday, I asked Reynolds to guess what Miller was doing at the time we were spending time with the players.
“Doing plays or watching (film) from a practice,” Reynolds said, never hesitating.
The next couple of days will be used to ramp up for the season and then the rest of the season will be all business. Christmas break will be a nice little respite.
“That’s important for him to get that break,” Reynolds said. “When we come back, we’re on.”
After all, Miller realizes that getting to the top is tough but staying there is even tougher. And that’s the case the last few years when his recruiting classes have been among the best in the country.
“Recruiting is an obsession,” he said, continuing the same theme he’s said in recent years. “It’s at a level no one has ever done before. That’s why it’s hard to compare generations.”
He proceeded to talk about it being “all day, ever day” in September, April, July, August.
“And that doesn’t mean you’re going to do well either,” he said. “It just what you have to do to have a chance.”