Arizona Athletics

Miller: ‘I look forward to coaching this outstanding team’

What was made clear — and perhaps confirmed — on Thursday afternoon deep in the bowels of McKale Center is that Sean Miller is a fighter.

Prized and adored.

That’s very apparent, inasmuch as the University of Arizona is backing the man from Ellwood, Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh-area steel tough…

Miller has more spunk and bite than we thought, even when we knew he was loaded with each as it comes to basketball. He’s always been at the 100-watt level.

Sean Miller. (Photo courtesy Stan Liu, Arizona Athletics)

In a four-minute, 30-second announcement, Miller buried the lede to say he was staying on as Arizona’s coach and will continue for as long as he wants to.

“I look forward to coaching this outstanding team as we seek to capture a Pac-12 regular season championship this week,” Miller said in the final 30 seconds of his announcement. “I now intend to turn my focus to basketball, our players and this team.”

Arizona faces Stanford tonight at McKale. A win would clinch Arizona’s Pac-12 title for the regular season.

Miller did not take questions from the media in an announcement that was streamed live on by the Pac-12.

The news of Miller’s commitment to the program must have brought elation to Arizona Wildcat nation. As I’ve estimated, there must have been 85 to 90 percent of the fans backing its coach with the other 10 or so percent saying it’s time to say goodbye given some of the evidence.

But Miller continues to say the media reports — especially brought on by ESPN — are incorrect and are “still inaccurate and completely false.”

Miller, wearing a red Arizona polo shirt, read directly from a prepared statement saying,
“We do our very best to run a clean program at the University of Arizona. I have done that since the first day I stepped on this campus.”

Sean Miller addresses the media about the FBI investigation. (Photo courtesy Matt Moreno)

He did apologize for the negative attention that has been created from the entire federal investigation, one involving his former longtime assistant, Book Richardson, who has been indicted for his involvement in the scandal that has rocked the college basketball world.

The complaint against Richardson says he took $20,000 in bribes, “some of which Richardson appears to have kept for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball player” in order to recruit the player to UA, the complaint says.

The money was to be used to influence student-athletes to hire Christian Dawkins as manager and Munish Sood as financial adviser, according to the complaint.

Former UA assistant Joe Pasternack’s name is also all over documents, according to Yahoo.com, via emails to Dawkins and his boss Andy Miller. Pastnernack is now the head coach at Cal State-Santa Barbara.

What Miller made clear, six days after an ESPN reported they had information Miller was heard discussing a possible $100,000 payment to then-UA recruit Deandre Ayton. ESPN has since made a couple of corrections on the story to clearly depict the timeline of the discussions on what was said to be a wiretap between Miller and Dawkins.

“Let me be very, very clear,” Miller said, “I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona. In fact, I never met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until Deandre publicly announced he was coming to our school. Any report to the contrary is in accurate, false and defamatory.”

Miller’s public statement came just two hours prior to a meeting with the Arizona Board of Regents to discuss Miller’s contract. At the meeting, UA president Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke issued a statement saying, “At this time we have no reason to believe that Coach Miller violated NCAA rules or any laws regarding the allegation reported in the media. Additionally, he has a record of compliance with NCAA rules, and he has been cooperative with this process.”

Miller made no mention of the board meeting, but what was clear was he was upset that recent media reports put him in a situation where “I cannot remain silent” because they “have impugned the reputation of me, the university and sullied the name of a tremendous young man (Deandre).

“I’m outraged by the media statements that have been made and the acceptance that these statements are true. There was no such conversation. These statements have damaged me, my family, the university, Deandre Ayton and his incredible family.”

Miller said there had been one recruit who had suggested to be paid to attend UA, “but I did not agree.” That player did not join UA and Miller said he was not going to share details about the player or the matter.

“Compliance with NCAA rules is extremely important to us,” Miller said “And we work hard to create and monitor a culture of compliance within in our program.

“I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program. I have never paid a recruit or prospect, their family or their representative to come to Arizona. I never have and never will.”

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