Sean Miller has decided to follow in the footsteps of former Xavier head coaches Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, and Thad Motta and leave Xavier to lead a major conference basketball program.
After Arizona was turned down by John Calipari, Jamie Dixon, Mark Few and Jay Wright, and toyed with by USC head coach Tim Floyd, Athletic Director Jim Livengood got lucky when Miller accepted the job.
Miller’s decision was not an easy one, as he is leaving behind the back-to-back-to-back Atlantic 10 champions at a school where he spent eight years. At his going away press conference, Miller was classy as he said good-bye to Xavier.
“[Arizona] speaks for itself, and I am excited, but right now…it’s about just making sure you understand and the city of Cincinnati, the people have been nothing short of a dream.”
Instead of coaching a team with aspirations of playing deep into March and even April, Miller will instead be coaching an Arizona team next year that may struggle to fill out its roster.
Juniors Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill are both considered to be mid-to-high first round picks and will undoubtedly enter the 2009 NBA Draft.
Fellow junior and point guard Nic Wise is rumored to be considering declaring for the draft as well, but is not as highly ranked as Budinger and Hill. Sean Miller’s only chance of not being the Indiana of 2010 is if Wise returns for his senior season.
Arizona Basketball will be completely lost without its senior leader at point guard, and while the team may not contend for NCAA Tournament even with Wise, they may not win a game in the Pac-10 without him.
Along with convincing Wise to stay for his senior season, Miller’s other immediate concern is to hit the recruiting trail running. Arizona has, with a few exceptions, been without a recruiting class for the past two years.
No disrespect to Kyle Fogg, but when he is most highly touted recruit to come and stay in Tucson in two years, something is wrong.
If any current players decide to transfer from Arizona to another school, Miller could be forced to put a lineup out on the court full of borderline Pac-10 talent if he isn’t able to sign other recruits.
Ideally, Miller would be able to find two or three 2009 uncommitted recruits, but the reality is that it is already April and almost all of the top-notch talent is already spoken for.
One thing Miller cannot do is gamble on recruits and end up wasting a scholarship for three years, just to save face for the first.
While Arizona has been in the NCAA tournament for 25 consecutive years and is only two away from tying the all-time record held by North Carolina, the long-term health of the program is more important than being a fringe tournament team the next two years.
One recruit who would fit with Arizona is current Xavier commit Kevin Parrom, a 6'6", 195 lbs. swingman from Connecticut. Parrom is a Jack-of-all-trades sort of player, doing many things well but nothing spectacularly, and excels on an open-court style, perfect for Arizona.
Another recruit is former Arizona commit Solomon Hill. Hill, a 6'6", 210 lbs. small forward who decommitted after Lute Olson’s retirement, is perhaps the recruit that Miller has the best chance of signing due to his past interest in the program.
He plays more of a point-forward position and has tremendous passing skills both in transition and in the half-court, according to ESPN and Scouts, Inc.
One of Xavier’s 2010 commits, J.D. Weatherspoon, has reopened his recruitment after hearing the news about Miller’s departure. If Miller is able to get the 6'6", 240 lbs. Ohio power forward to follow him to Tucson, he would be well on his way to rebuilding the Arizona program.
According to many throughout the world of college basketball, Sean Miller will be a success at Arizona. He will be able to recruit and win in the desert and even the most conservative of forecasts have the Wildcats back at elite status within five years.
More likely, however, is that Miller will have the Wildcats back competing for the Pac-10 championship within two to three years, and competing for Elite Eights and Final Fours after that.
Arizona Basketball is one of the top 10 programs in the history of college basketball, and it won’t take long for a coach and recruiter of Miller’s stature to turn the program around.