HOO Will Be Virginia's Next Basketball Coach: Sean Miller?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IMarch 25, 2009

CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Xavier Musketeers gives instructions to his team during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at the Cintas Center December 22, 2007 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Virginia came to the Cintas Center in 2008 looking to turn their season around like they had the previous season.

The Cavaliers had experienced an awful stint in Puerto Rico, dropping two ugly games to Appalachian State and Utah but were able to reclaim momentum by demolishing the Gonzaga Bulldogs to open 2007.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few called it one of the worst losses he had ever seen.

Well, this time Virginia had another mid-major on its plate: The Xavier Musketeers. 

The Cavaliers wanted to prove they were the same team that took down Arizona on the road earlier that season.

Well these road warriors lost... in fact, that word may be too kind. After all, losing insinuates you actually tried to win.

Virginia laid perhaps the biggest egg of the Leitao era, giving up 60 points in the first half. Virginia had a terrible January and finished the season 10th in the ACC.

Of course, the next year Virginia had a chance for revenge and followed up that sad performance with another defeat. 

However, this beat down was different for it took place at home and the crowd let the Cavaliers know that this season was quickly becoming unacceptable.

In Virginia's two contests against Xavier, they lost by a combined score of 190-142.

Furthermore, Xavier shot over 60 percent in their first contest and led by as much as 31. In their second meeting, they held Virginia to under 30 percent in the first half and led by as much as 28.

Well it appears that if you can't beat them you might as well steal their coach.

Sean Miller, head coach of Xavier, has become a hot name in both the Virginia and Arizona coaching search.

Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times, David Teel of the Daily Press, and ESPN's Andy Katz have all mentioned his name as a potential candidate. Doughty even gave Miller his seal of approval over the rest of the field.

Miller has certainly helped make Xavier one of the pre-emminent mid-major schools in the country. 

Xavier has made its third Sweet 16 since 2004, two of those under the reign of Miller. A victory over Pittsburgh would give the Musketeers their second straight Elite Eight appearance.

Overall, Miller's record is 117-45.

So, will Miller be the hire that Virginia so desperately needs?



Contracts are just like any dance, it takes two to tango.

Virginia would be stupid to not go after Miller for he may be the best candidate of any up to this point.

Yes, Tubby Smith has established one of the top reputations in the country.

Yes, Jeff Capel is a master recruiter.

Both of these guys already have major conference jobs and luring them away will be difficult, if not impossible.

Anthony Grant is a charismatic rising star, but he has only three years of experience at a mid-major college. 

Miller has five years on his record, but he also has four NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16 appearances in the past three years. 

It would be three Sweet Sixteens if not for a miracle shot by Ohio State that almost knocked the eventual national runner-up out in the second round.

I've mentioned in previous articles how Littlepage cannot afford a risk, not even a calculated one. Well Sean Miller is not a risk, he is only one of the most underrated coaches in the country.

In his five years at Xavier, the Musketeers have proven to do what Virginia so desperately craves: beat the big boys.

Their out-of-conference victories this season alone include wins over Missouri, Memphis, and LSU. All three went to the Big Dance and two of them are doing battle tomorrow.

Other notable wins under Miller include a Beasley-led Kansas State team, Villanova, Illinois, and Cincinnati.

Leitao beat Arizona twice, but outside of Northwestern and South Florida they have few other marquee out-of-conference victories in four years at Virginia.

Miller may be a mid-major coach but he has a track record better than most major conference coaches and he still has the youth to build a program for the long-term.

So then the question becomes, will Miller take his spot on the dance floor with Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage?

Admittedly Miller has a very good job at Xavier, but some coaches simply get "the itch."  If Miller is bounced against Pittsburgh, he may start to wonder if he can ever get his program to the next level.

After all, despite the fact that Memphis nearly won the NCAA title last year, unless you look at UNLV, mid-majors do not find their trophy at the end of their road to the Final Four.

If he left the program now he would be leaving it in wonderful shape. He would have nothing to feel bad about, having given Xavier an amazing run and helping set it straight for quite some time to come.

Virginia has a great to deal offer in terms of its arena, its location and its fan-base that are ready to worship a guy of Miller's capability. 

The boosters are ready to pay obscene amounts of money and offer Miller a chance to become a household name in the ACC, fighting off Coach K and Roy Williams every week on ESPN.

Thad Matta had a great deal of success during his time at Xavier too, including three straight seasons of 26 wins. However, he could not resist the beckon call from the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Pete Gillen led the Musketeers from 1985-1994 but he too left for Providence College.

Miller will make the leap one day, particularly if his alma mater Pittsburgh were to come calling.  He very well could see an opportunity to return to the area and experience the pressure and potential of coaching in the ACC.

Sure, he has a sweet gig at the moment, but outside of Duke and North Carolina, Virginia has nothing to be scared of from the other teams in the ACC.

Virginia may be down in the dumps but they have had some major success, including a stretch in the late 1980s that included six postseason invites and an NIT championship.

If Miller could only repeat that "above average" success, he would become legend at Virginia. These fans are not unreasonable, they just want a reason to believe. 

Miller has a good thing going at Xavier, but the siren's call claims many victims particularly of his age group. 

Virginia is a tough job, but it is an attainable job. A challenge that many would welcome. So much so, that Miller will take the plunge and give himself a whole new opportunity to prove himself. 



Miller has established Xavier as one of the scariest mid-majors in the country.

Xavier is quickly becoming another Gonzaga, a major team in a mid-major conference.

The truth is Miller would be foolish to leave such a place. 

Why give up a job where he is loved and almost guaranteed 20 wins a year because of the A-10's overall weakness?

Coaches would kill to have his kind of job security and this year has proven that he can bring in the type of talent that can compete with the best teams in the country.

Obviously, Virginia can dish out some major cash but Xavier is not exactly a poor school either. 

The Musketeers have very good facilities and a ravenous fan base of their own. Even if the A-10 is not the mass media market of the ACC, Miller has never been one to hog the spotlight.

If Miller were put in a bidding war, Xavier would not let him go without a fight.

Miller's team is also very young. He only has two seniors currently on the roster and five freshman.

He also has a very intimidating team with only two players under 6'4''. That size makes Xavier a tough matchup for even the best of teams.

Miller has used what Thad Matta gave him, but he has also added to the stockpile of talent and expectations. 

Even if Xavier does not make the Final Four this year, they are in great shape to make another run next year. The A-10 will still be theirs for the taking. 

Sean Miller must look at Xavier and see the confidence these marquee wins over the past five years have done for these players.  They know they belong with the big names in college basketball.

After all that hard work, why would he just throw it away?



Sean Miller would be an excellent hire for Virginia. 

He is still young but has one of the best records you can find. 

Miller would be worth all the money Virginia is willing to throw at Tubby Smith or Jeff Capel and he would also be able to stick around for awhile and build something for the future.

If Virginia needs a face for the John Paul Jones Arena, it could do far worse than Miller.

The problem is getting him on board. 

After all, Miller is not an alum. He has no real connections to Virginia and few to the ACC.

The farther Xavier goes in the tournament the more he believes that he can take his team and get them to the Final Four or beyond.

This plan does not work unless Miller is willing to find a change of scenery and no one knows if that is something he is thinking about.

It might be wise for him to experience coaching life in the ACC before he takes his eventual spot at Pittsburgh because it is a different mentality. 

It is a pressure he will not feel at Xavier but one he will quickly experience if he had to go through the murderer's row known as the Big East schedule annually. 

The opportunity to establish pipelines in the Virginia-Washington D.C. area may also be something he would really like to explore.

However, this is all conjecture. The fact is that for nine days Virginia has appeared to sit back and twiddle their thumbs.

They have yet to officially offer Smith anything, leading people to believe that their real choice may still be coaching.

So if it's not Capel, you can be sure Virginia is coming for Miller and ready to give him everything he ever wanted.

He could say no, but he could say yes. There's nothing quite like being pursued.

I don't think Virginia has a chance for Miller but I fully endorse them trying everything they can to get it done. 

If they pulled it off, it could be the smartest hire by Virginia since they picked up football legend George Welsh.