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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    It’s Miller time

    Sheldon Smith / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona Basketballs new head coach, Sean Miller, speaks at press conference in McKale Center Tuesday morning.
    Sheldon Smith
    Sheldon Smith / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona Basketball’s new head coach, Sean Miller, speaks at press conference in McKale Center Tuesday morning.

    Following the roller coaster-type season the Arizona men’s basketball team experienced, did you expect anything less from the coaching search?

    UA athletic director Jim Livengood can finally exhale. The ride is over. His quest for Lute Olson’s successor, in an attempt to restore Arizona’s elite status, reached a defining chapter with the signing of Xavier coach Sean Miller yesterday.

    After Livengood and Miller met face-to-face in New Mexico on Sunday, Miller initially turned down the offer after arriving back in Cincinnati that evening. It would’ve been Livengood’s second public rejection in 72 hours, promoting panic beyond just the public embarrassment that UA suffered.

    Then came Miller’s sudden, 180-degree change of heart. The guy without any West Coast ties decided to leave his program that grew from a mid-major to a consistent winner during his 5-year tenure as head coach.

    Miller, 40, is regarded as one of the nation’s top up-and-coming young coaches in college basketball. Not only is a short-term rebuilding strategy intact with securing a proven winning head coach, but long-term relief and stability is also fulfilled with Miller’s arrival.

    Livengood reportedly offered a 7-year, $18 million deal to Miller, the Wildcats’ new guardian of the historically profitable program that financially supports the entire athletics department.

    Without a big-name hire like Miller, the program that earned a gross $16,417,302 in the 2008 fiscal year could’ve been in financial jeopardy combined with the current economic recession.

    Now, Arizonaathletics.com posted a special front page dedicated to welcoming Miller and reminding season ticket holders that the deadline to renew is May 1.

    While UA fans may have lobbied for a bigger marquee name like Rick Pitino or John Calipari, Livengood’s ability to secure a relatively proven winner certainly helps Arizona avoid a financial pitfall that a lesser-known coach could’ve faced.

    Now, Miller becomes the program’s 13th permanent head coach. After a week of the national media bashing Arizona’s status as a powerhouse basketball program, the announcement of Miller begins the rebuilding process and probably “”wins the press conference”” – just as Jim Livengood wanted from the beginning.ÿ

    The inaugural press conference, closed to the public, will be televised live today at noon on FOX Sports Arizona from McKale Center.

    “”I would never leave Xavier unless it was a place where I really felt you could win a national championship,”” Miller said to the Cincinnati media on Monday. “”When I say that, it does not mean you can’t win one here.””

    “”(Arizona) is a place that has done it before, and has had a quarter of a century worth of excellence. I don’t want to say you can’t win a national championship here. But Arizona has won one.””

    An emotional Miller took questions from the Cincinnati media in a farewell address Monday afternoon, becoming choked up when thanking Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski.

    Bobinski met Miller at the coach’s house Monday morning, and both said money didn’t determine Miller’s choice.

    After speaking with Bobinski, Miller informed his players of his decision in a meeting.

    “”I tried to trust my gut,”” Miller said. “”Don’t think for a second it’s fun to leave – that all of the sudden I’m waving goodbye. It’s not that easy.

    “”To have that opportunity to have a new era under me, that’s something I followed my heart on,”” Miller added.

    Said XU freshman Kenny Frease to the Cincinnati Enquirer: “”He obviously thinks Arizona is a better situation for him, and he’s going to try to justify that to us. It just sort of became real. You come to a program to play for Coach Miller. That’s why I came here. But after a year here at Xavier, it’s hard for me to think about leaving.””

    Ex-interim head coach Russ Pennell said he has not been in contact with players or Miller since the hire, nor plans to do so.

    Pennell said he’s “”pretty much done”” with UA and might hear from a job opening within the next couple days.

    “”I think it’s a great hire. I think the University of Arizona is getting a really good coach,”” Pennell said. “”He knows what he’s doing. He’s a good coach and he’ll do well.””

    Livengood, who could not be reached directly Monday, issued a statement through UA athletics: “”It’s been an exhaustive week, but it’s a good day to be a Wildcat. We believe we’ve brought in the best young coach in the country, a proven winner who will take this program into the future.””

    Added UA president Robert Shelton: “”Sean Miller is a perfect fit for the University of Arizona. Arizona fans are going to be very proud of the way he approaches the game. He is absolutely the right person to lead our program forward.””

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