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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Miller hits the ground running

    UA mens basketball coach Sean Miller fields questions at his inaugural press conference in McKale Center on April 7. In his first few weeks as the teams coach, Miller has traveled to several cities in the U.S., and hasnt even had time to put his personal touch on his office.
    UA men’s basketball coach Sean Miller fields questions at his inaugural press conference in McKale Center on April 7. In his first few weeks as the team’s coach, Miller has traveled to several cities in the U.S., and hasn’t even had time to put his personal touch on his office.

    The only way someone would recognize Sean Miller’s office is by the freshly installed name plaque on the window next to his door.

    Other than that, the office looks empty. No photos or memorabilia – not even a permanent desktop computer. Just a laptop, paperwork and an old issue of Sports Illustrated that featured Xavier basketball on the cover – the secure program he chose to leave for Arizona.

    Hired April 6 to a five-year contract worth $2 million annually, Miller is in for the long haul, despite his office’s temporary appearance that looks more catered for Arizona’s past two interim coaches.

    Prioritizing what needs to get done keeps Miller’s long-term strategy in tact – down to when he can hang photos from his office’s barren walls.

    “”One thing I remind myself every day is you can’t do everything at once,”” Miller said in a one-on-one interview with the Daily Wildcat Thursday afternoon. “”There’s a tendency once you get to a place that you want to get everyone settled in quickly.

    “”You’re in an office with no pictures. When will pictures come? I don’t know if this is a high priority right now. There’s many other things I’m trying to do. It’s patience and persistence,”” he added, and later said that office decor would come sometime this summer.

    Much like the “”First 100 days”” of a U.S. presidency, which can often define the direction America’s leader wishes to pursue, Miller also inherited a monstrous to-do list in his first few weeks on the job. Filling a staff, roster and office with his fingerprints can’t happen overnight.

    The comparison to President Barack Obama’s transition and campaign for change might be a little extreme. While the degree of change certainly differs, both new leaders have embarked on their respective new adjustments and challenges.

    And through the eyes of Tucson and Wildcat Nation, Miller might as well be the president, based on the sudden impact and presence he’s made on billboards all across town.

    “”I don’t know how fair that is, but I would think whatever context you put it in is probably a fair analogy,”” UA athletic director Jim Livengood said Wednesday. “”I can’t think of a time where a coach has done a better job than Sean has done. He’s hit every mark; he’s a big-time player.””

    Added Miller: “”It’s been overwhelmingly positive. People around here are so welcoming. It doesn’t take long to figure out how important our program is to the community.””

    Of the 24 days on the job, Miller has only spent 12 in Tucson.

    His immediate goals in terms of recruiting have put Miller on a bi-coastal road trip to New York City, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Indianapolis, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles in a 14-day period.

    And in Tucson, he spends “”all day, every day that I’m here”” in his office.

    “”My family’s not here,”” he said. “”My choice is to either go to the hotel or here.””

    Miller has flown back to his hometown of Cincinnati four times, visiting his wife, Amy, and three boys currently in elementary schools.

    The Miller family won’t move out to Tucson until his boys finish schooling in mid-June, when Sean expects to purchase a house.

    “”It’s a very difficult time for (my family),”” Miller said. “”The six months from mid-October to mid-March, you’re gone a lot. Weekends don’t matter – you’re doing a lot of different things.

    “”Families tend to bank on spring as a time, especially when April ends, where you really fall into a normal pattern. But that’s been taken away from my family just because of this transition,”” he added. “”For that, it’s really hard right now.””

    Missing out on time with team

    With so much time spent on the road away from Tucson, Miller said all the off-court tasks limit his interaction with getting to know his current players.

    But that, too, doesn’t happen overnight. The camaraderie and chemistry Miller must build takes even more than just an off-season.

    “”That’s the hardest part for me. It’s something that I like to take a lot of pride in,”” Miller said. “”It’s really the thing you don’t get a chance to do. I’ve done a lot of other things, things that are very important. It takes a while to really get an opportunity to get to know the players. It’s something right now that I wish I had more time to do.””

    Livengood added: “”The biggest thing right now is trying to get the players a chance to get to know him. Players are getting to know why Xavier loved him so much.””

    Just this week, Miller sat down with Zane Johnson after the UA wing requested to transfer from the program. Miller said it wasn’t a personnel issue with the new coaching staff, but rather, Johnson’s desire to take on a bigger role at a smaller program.

    Realizing how much turmoil Johnson and these current Wildcats have endured over the past two seasons under interim coaches Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell, Miller understood the reasoning for Johnson’s request.

    “”I think Zane is just looking for a change. He’s been through a lot,”” Miller said. “”I completely respect his decision. Having been here for a couple years, in his mind it made sense to go to another place.””

    Possibly the biggest question mark heading into next season comes in the decision of Nic Wise. The upcoming senior point guard has decided to test the NBA Draft waters, but kept the window open to return by not hiring an agent.

    On his Twitter page, Wise wrote: “”Get paid $225,000 tax free overseas next year or be top 5 best PG’s in the nation next year.””

    Miller agrees that Wise can become a premiere point guard in the Pacific 10 Conference, and has gotten to know his family in the short time on the job. But like Pennell and his teammates have already said, it’s a decision that Wise will make for himself.

    “”He’s going to make a decision based on what he feels is best,”” Miller said.

    Miller might not have full roster

    Just because Miller finds himself in a situation with an abnormally high amount of scholarships to offer doesn’t mean he’ll fill them.

    Arizona inked two high-ranked recruits in the spring signing period – four-star recruits Solomon Hill and Kyryl Natyazhko.

    But with the departures of Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger (both NBA Draft-bound), Fendi Onobun, David Bagga (departing seniors) and Johnson, the upcoming roster is thin.

    And Miller still has the Director of Basketball Operations vacancy to fill on his staff.

    “”You don’t want to just fill the roster with people,”” Miller said. “”I don’t know if there’s five players in the United States in the class of 2009 that are ‘Arizona’ good.

    “”I don’t know if we will have a full roster,”” he added. “”It’s just part of the circumstances that we inherited. Those are sometimes the things that I’m not necessarily going to control this November. I’ll be able to control it a lot better the following November.””

    Livengood added: “”The young people that we sign right now, it’s not just about filling spots, it’s about getting the right people. He’s done exactly what I think he’s needed to have done.””

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