Let the “fresh start” begin.
That’s what is going to happen after Dr. Robert Robbins and Dave Heeke decided to let go Sean Miller after 12 years.
In a 27-minute Zoom press conference on Wednesday – just a few hours after the news broke – Heeke spoke about the whys and what nexts in the firing and hiring process.
Heeke said he informed Miller of the decision early Wednesday after two days of discussions. The players were informed as well.
“These are difficult times, it’s a challenging time when you have to make a change,” Heeke said of talking to the team.
Success on and off the court were the biggest criteria. It’s likely the future – of the Notice of Allegations – did, as well.
“When you step back and evaluate where the program is, we have incredibly high standards to be a program that has success at all levels, on and off the court,” Heeke said. “When we evaluated it, at this point in time, we feel like it’s the appropriate time to make a change, so that we can again restore, begin to rebuild, the overall high-caliber status of this incredible world-class basketball program. We have very high standards for our basketball program, for all of our programs here. Alignment with the you know the values of this university.
“Success is important, high performance is important, again, both on and off the court. And we’re constantly evaluating that. We have been, on the competitive side, probably as successful as we’ve wanted, but there are a number of factors that impact that. As we look at those in totality, we make an evaluation. And today, as we stand, it’s time for a change in that direction, and a change in leadership is the first step.”
What that means to getting Miller’s replacement – the who and the when – is anyone’s guess. Heeke said it was a “difficult decision” to make the move and that there was no perfect time to do it, although that was a big question that came up during the press conference a number of times.
“There’s never a perfect time,” Heeke said. “But after the conclusion of the season, taking some time to evaluate all the factors, considering that very closely, having the appropriate conversations, and consulting with President Robbins, we just concluded it was time to for a fresh start, so it was time to make a change. Ultimately that decision was made late last evening or early this morning, prior to arriving at the office and meeting with Coach Miller.”
Associate head coach Jack Murphy will be the interim head coach until a new coach is named.
“He will navigate the program with the support of the current staff through our search period,” Heeke said. “We will be in an active search, and it’s an optimal time to find a new head coach. We will move forward with that. We’ll move swiftly and hire someone as quickly as we possibly can. We’ll be going at it 24/7.”
Heeke said UA will hire a search firm to help get the coach they want and who can lead UA back to being a nationally recognized basketball program. In the last five years Arizona has fallen short of that. UA has won but two NCAA tournament games in that time, losing miserably in the 2018 season with future No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton, NBA player Allonzo Trier and standout Rawle Alkins.
Arizona needs “to compete for championships here in this conference (Pac-12), an outstanding basketball conference, obviously, as was showcased this year in the NCAA Tournament,” Heeke said. “Yes, the expectation is to be a nationally caliber program that can compete to be in the Final Four. That’s what we want to do. We just saw our women’s basketball program do that, it was a remarkable run by Coach (Adia) Barnes and our women’s program, that’s the type of run we want to be on in this men’s program as well. Very high standards. We’re one of the best programs in the country. One of the most respected programs in the country. We want to compete at that level as well.”
Who will it be? Names have popped up. Current Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, former UA All-American Damon Stoudamire (now head coach at Pacific), current Arkansas coach Eric Musselman. Former player Luke Walton was mentioned but was quoted Wednesday to say is he’s not interested in the job.
Former UA All-American guard Mike Bibby told AllSportsTucson.com he’d love to come back as an assistant coach. Read story.
“There’s certainly some incredibly outstanding individuals that are in the game of basketball that have had a huge impact on our program here, and continue to do that throughout the coaching ranks,” Heeke said. “I would assume that they would be very viable candidates for this.”
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