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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Creating a legacy

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets Augustana in an exhibition mens basketball game in McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 4, 2009. Arizona up 50-34 at the half
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Augustana in an exhibition men’s basketball game in McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 4, 2009. Arizona up 50-34 at the half

Season ticket-holder Eddie Brown has attended Arizona men’s basketball games since 1953. He played for ex-UA basketball coach Bruce Larson (1961 to 1972) in an era well before basketball put Tucson on the map.

“”Sean Miller’s going to have a better record than Lute (Olson),”” Brown said without hesitation.

A nearby iconic superfan, 76-year-old Phyllis Goodman, was intrigued by the conversation at halftime of an exhibition game this season.

“”Well, I don’t know about that,”” Goodman said.

“”Oh, he will,”” Brown replied confidently.

“”It’s pretty hard to beat (Olson’s) record,”” Goodman countered. “”But it doesn’t matter. What was, was. He’s going to do a great job, I’m excited and I think Lute is, too.””

Goodman has attended Arizona men’s basketball games since before McKale Center’s existence. In this season’s first few exhibition wins, she was the second-most loyal Arizona basketball enthusiast sitting as a spectator. First, of course, would be Lute Olson, the architect of the Arizona basketball program, who often sits five rows behind the UA bench.

Just like when Olson retired last season, Goodman wrote a letter to Miller wishing him best of luck. Both Olson and Miller wrote back handwritten notes thanking her.

“”He’s a real class, class guy and wonderful successor,”” Goodman said. “”I’ve been ready all year, all season, all summer.””

So has Miller.

The first-year head coach filled immediate needs, completely overhauled the approach and even got involved with marketing his new product.

He answers questions in a long-term mentality, often referring to the current team as his “”program.””

He called the streak of 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances “”damaging”” to this year’s young team built for the “”future.””

The tradition that brought Miller to Arizona isn’t carrying him anywhere.

He’s doing it himself.

“”Because things have happened here in the past, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to continue. We want to create our own legacy,”” Miller said. “”This is a new season and a new beginning from everyone in our program. It’s clearly a time to move on for our program and it starts right now.””

He revamped the media guide to begin with new NBA-related pages featuring former Wildcats’ accomplishments in the league.

He moved the UA coach’s radio show from the UofA Bookstore to an upscale restaurant in the Foothills, a wealthier area of Tucson, to sell tickets.

He invited the UA student body to practice and gave them new chants to enhance home court advantage.

Miller brought in a top-15 recruiting class before even furnishing his office in McKale Center.

He didn’t just hit the ground running. He hit it with a marathon mentality.

“”As the head coach at Arizona right now, I feel like I’ve been here for two years,”” Miller said. “”And really I’ve been here for just six months.

“”It’s been a long time coming. It’s a new place, it’s a very much new beginning for our staff. It’s an opportunity to really create a program from day one, throughout.””

Fans, alumni and students of all ages have caught on.

Tuesday night in McKale Center, Miller invited all UA students to attend the end of practice and learn new chants, enhancing the arena’s atmosphere.

Afterward, Miller took a few questions from students.

“”You in the back, last one,”” Miller said and pointed to a man in the last row.

“”I graduated here in 2001, I just kind of stumbled in tonight and I just wanted to thank you,”” the man said with confidence. “”We were in a world of hurt there for a bit looking for a coach, and we couldn’t have done better than you and I appreciate you being here.””

He prompted a loud ovation — one that would be tough to manage at a mid-major Atlantic 10 Conference school like Xavier.

No doubt, he’s in the Pacific 10 now.

“”It’s kind of like the Arizona frenzy is back,”” said junior Jamelle Horne. “”Miller’s brought that vibe back from the East Coast with him. I’m just ready to get things going.

“”It’s fresh, man,”” Horne added. “”This year is just a totally different feeling on the court, totally different understanding of the game.””

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