It took about one minute 45 seconds – or so – for Sean Miller to complete his opening statement to officially begin the 2019-20 season and the beginning Tuesday’s media session to say, in part, he wasn’t going to say anything about the NCAA investigation.
It took about another 40 or so minutes for him to admit it’s been a long 10 years – actually 10 ½ – since he was named Arizona’s head basketball coach. So much has happened from April 6, 2009 to Sept. 24, 2019 (and just two days from the two-year anniversary of his NCAA troubles). Three Elite Eights, a few NBA drafted players a host of great victories and a few heartaches (pick one, any one).
So, I asked does it feel like it’s been 10 years since he’s been the head coach?
“It feels like 100 years,” he said, in his dry sense of humor. “It really, really does. You know, 10 years in college basketball all that you have to do is, I think I’ve counted maybe 35 changes in the Pac-12 on the football side. I could be wrong, in and around there and maybe a few less but not a ton less.
“On the basketball side, it’s not easy to be at one place for 10 years and my family and I are grateful every day that we’re here, looking forward especially to the challenges of the next seven months. We’re going to have plenty, and hopefully we can bring this team together and have a great season.”
And so, it begins, Arizona back on the hardwood hoping to make magic again. It’s been a long two years from what many expect in Wildcat Country. Whether this team – one loaded with young talent and a good mix of older, seasoned talent – can make a deep run into the NCAA tournament (dare I say a Final Four appearance?) is anyone’s guess. But, Miller & Co., is back at it – even after his awkward goodbye to end last season in McKale Center. You remember – that Senior Day speech where he thanked the fans “for everything.”
He said he was just that a thank you and, well, so it was. He ended it that way last year and, well, started it this season with more thank yous given he’s back for another season – albeit under a cloud of the NCAA.
“Good afternoon,” he started. “Before I answer questions and talk about our upcoming basketball season, I want to first express my gratitude to Dr. (Bobby) Robbins for his incredible support over the past two years. I can’t imagine a better relationship a college coach of any kind can have with the university president.
“I also want to thank Dave Heeke and our athletic administration for their efforts and support.
“Most of all, I want to thank our fans for their heartfelt love of our basketball program. Many college basketball programs have a strong fan base. However, I can’t imagine one more passionate and loyal than ours.
“As we now begin a new basketball season and any investigation into our program proceeds, I will continue to work as hard as I can to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance as a part of our basketball program. Just like I have done for the last 10-plus years. And I’ll do this with the support of a very strong team, alongside of me every step of the way.
“Moving forward, I’m also going to continue to follow our University of Arizona policy of not commenting on any part of any investigation that involves our university. I look forward today and moving forward to answering any and really all of your questions about our basketball team, and most importantly this upcoming season … Go ahead.”
And with that, 2019-20 has begun. Play on players, play on.