Arizona Basketball

Have we seen Sean Miller’s last game as Arizona’s coach?

Sean Miller (photo courtesy Arizona Athletics)

If Sean Miller is Arizona’s coach coach by tipoff on Saturday night – heck, by the morning maybe, possibly? – I’d be shocked. By my guess, he’s done at Arizona.

Everything he worked for and strived for is over.

D-O-N-E.

At the very least, Rome is burning.

With news breaking that Miller was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing paying $100,000 to secure Deandre Ayton as a future player it’s not good. And that’s for each of them.

This is on Miller, the coach/man Arizona stood behind in late September when it decided not to do anything with him when the news of the FBI investigation came to light.

Arizona suspended assistant coach Book Richardson, who was at the forefront, and later fired him. The Wildcats enjoyed the fruits — such that they were in this season’s 23-6 season — and moved on.

Now, according to an ESPN story and to those with knowledge of the FBI investigation, Miller and Christian Dawkins, a runner working for ASM Sports agent Andy Miller, had multiple conversations about Ayton. When Dawkins asked Miller if he should work with Richardson to finalize their agreement, Miller said he’d handle it as it came to money, the sources told ESPN.

This was Miller’s initial statement a week after the news in September broke:

“I was devastated to learn last week of the allegations made against Emanuel Richardson. I have expressed to both Dr. Robbins and our Athletic Director Dave Heeke that I fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate these allegations. As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance. To the best of my ability, I have worked to demonstrate this over the past 8 years and will continue to do so as we move forward.”

How those words ring hollow now.

Richardson was one of four assistant coaches initially caught up in the scandal … and now comes this. And all along Miller knew he was involved. How could he not know? Miller, in fact, had been acting a bit un-Miller-like recently, being less chippy on questions and more tolerable with the local media.

But he too had changed physically. All the weight he had lost a couple of years back had returned. He wasn’t that thin-ish man he was. You could tell it was all catching up with him.

Then on Thursday night, it is very likely he knew something was coming when he was short with reporters after UA’s win over Oregon State.

That may have been his last act as UA’s coach.

UA athletic director Dave Heeke has no choice but to fire Miller — or at least suspend him in the wake of the allegations. Who knows? He may have done it already as I write this.

Will Arizona have to forfeit wins from this season? Will it even be allowed in the NCAA Tournament in three weeks? Who will be the coach if Miller is fired? Luckily, UA has Lorenzo Romar on board for the rest of the way.

Sean Miller/ Lorenzo Romar
(Photo courtesy Stan Liu, Arizona Athletics)

Clearly, if Arizona fans thought Thursday’s news about of Allonzo Trier’s ineligibility was a big deal, it won’t even register when it comes to all this FBI news and what it all means.

But does this all shock me? Not in the slightest. A colleague or two of mine in the last couple of months have speculated — using educated guesses and what we know — that Miller wouldn’t be here longer than this season given the circumstances. He had too much pride to deal with all this. It was that same pride — and pressure — of winning that put him in this situation.

And this is the result — a once-highly-thought-of coach may be out of the business for a long time. At least at the college level, that is.

At the time the investigations were announced, school president Dr. Robert Robbins said in a statement: “Head coach Sean Miller has not been charged with — nor accused of — any misconduct and he has been fully cooperative and supportive of our efforts to determine the facts in pursuit of the truth. … Based on the facts that we know at this time, we support Coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations.”

When Robbins made his statement, three little words struck me: “at this time.”

Almost five months to the day, and with March coming up fast, the real madness has begun.

* * *

Steve Rivera talks Arizona athletics on Phoenix radio

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