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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘First Family’ adjusts to desert

    First Family adjusts to desert

    Formally introduced as the “”First Family”” of the Arizona basketball program, Sean Miller sat alongside his wife, Amy, and three boys – Austin, Cameron, and Braden – Tuesday afternoon in McKale Center.

    Reporters, in what is believed to be the largest media gathering in school history, fired questions about the coach’s salary, recruits and coaching philosophies in a 45-minute press conference televised live.

    But it’s the new environment outside of the basketball realm that effects all five Millers. They probably had a few questions about the coaching transition, too.

    For the family without any West Coast ties, was it difficult to accept the offer without visiting the campus?

    “”Yeah it is, but I have faith. (Sean’s) been here before and knew about McKale Center – Center?”” said Amy, double checking on the arena’s name.

    Therein lies new knowledge the First Family begins absorbing. Amy and Sean, Pennsylvania natives who began dating in high school and both attended college at Pittsburgh, have never lived west of Wisconsin.

    The 40-year-old coach primarily kept within the Midwest, in coaching jobs at Wisconsin, Miami (Ohio), Pitt, N.C. State and Xavier. Just hours after the Miller family touched down in Tucson, they embraced a noticeable climate change beyond just the difference between Cincinnati’s snow flurries and Tucson’s high temperature of 89 degrees.

    Cosmetically, even the children noticed a little difference in the few hours after they landed.

    “”I have to be the most popular dad in America today,”” Sean said. “”When we got up, it was 33 degrees and snowing. These guys landed and they are ready to go swimming. I know that’s one thing I did right today.””

    Added Amy: “”It does look very different. The boys were like, ‘Is there any grass?’ That’s going to be a huge adjustment.””

    Sean didn’t even visit campus before accepting the position. He met UA athletics director Jim Livengood in New Mexico on Sunday to begin the contract negotiations. Afterward, Sean flew back home to meet with his wife and Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski in the family’s kitchen.

    Sean’s last visit to Tucson came in 1988, when his Panthers fell 88-62 to the Wildcats in McKale Center.

    “”(Lute Olson) probably doesn’t remember, but I was here in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament and Sean Elliott had about seven dunks in a row,”” Sean recalled. “”It was so loud in this building. … That’s a long period of time for me to remember that feeling.””

    Those memories accounted for a prime reason that attracted Miller to Arizona – its prestigious brand name.

    Next season, Miller could’ve coached arguably one of the best Xavier teams in school history, with the potential to reach a Final Four.

    It’s a situation that the Miller family became deeply invested in during his eight-year tenure as an assistant and head coach at the school he transformed from a mid-major to consistent winner.

    As young basketball enthusiasts, Sean’s three sons loved being around the players, traveling with the team and hanging out in the locker room, Amy said.

    After Sean finished with the press conference held on McKale Center’s floor, Austin, Cameron and Braden shot hoops on their father’s new home court.

    “”It won’t take long for them to figure out who their favorite player is here,”” Amy said.

    Sean added: “”To leave the place and the situation that I had, I wanted to come to a program where I felt like we could compete for a national championship, where it’s been proven and where it’s been done before, where you have all the support in the world, where you walk out there on game night and that home court has an aura about it.

    “”When you make a right and go down a street called National Championship Drive, I think that says it all about where you are at,”” Sean said. “”Clearly I’m really excited to be here.””

    Assistant coaches yet to be determined

    With an entirely new location and conference, Miller can either bring his assistants from Xavier or hire somebody with West Coast ties.

    He will consider bringing along his assistant Chris Mack if Mack does not earn the head coaching position at Xavier.

    “”Certainly I have several positions that will probably be open,”” Miller said. “”If he does not get the job, I want to surround myself with people who know our system. I want our staff to be able to teach people like Nic Wise the system and eliminate that learning curve.

    “”If Chris Mack doesn’t come here and is the head coach at Xavier, I will be looking for someone who is maybe a little bit more familiar with the West Coast,”” he added.

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