Miller and Livengood Discuss Arizona's Future

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIApril 10, 2009

The five month long wait for Lute Olson's permanent successor ended Tuesday when Sean Miller was formally given the keys to the Arizona Basketball program. 

Miller discussed his preferred style of play, the importance of treating players right, how Arizona's tradition ultimately led to his decision to take over as Head Coach and the importance of keeping Lute Olson involved in the program.

Athletic Director Jim Livengood shared the stage with Miller as they answered questions in a nearly hour long press conference. 

Here are Miller's and Livengood's answers from the press conference to questions ranging from Arizona basketball, leaving Xavier, succeeding Olson and his relationship with other coaches and players.


Miller reportedly has agreed to a seven year $18 million deal.  As per Arizona state laws, he can only sign a five year contract.  Livengood said they are working with the Arizona board of regents to have his contract extended two years in 2011. 

Livengood was asked if the extra two years was a verbal agreement handshake deal between himself and Miller.  He responded that its all a handshake deal until the board of regents approve everything.

On Leaving Xavier and Whether or Not He Changed His Mind

Miller has made it clear that leaving Xavier was a difficult decision.  About the decision, Miller said   "I don’t know if I ever completely said no or completely said yes." He went on to say he wasn't necessarily changing his mind as much as making sure.  

Livengood on the process of hiring a Coach

The most important thing was making sure that the hire was the right fit for the coach as well as Tucson. 

Everyone expected him to "hurry, hurry, hurry".

He just wanted to focus on the end result of the hire.

One of the things that made it hard for Arizona was the speed with which Kentucky hired John Calipari. 

It was very painful and very hard to hear criticism about coaches that turned down the job when he hadn't even talked to those particular coaches.  In fact, he only talked to USC's Tim Floyd who was the only other coach that was offered the position. 

Miller on Taking Over for Lute

"This is what drives you to come and take this opportunity.  Very few programs have a single coach with the legacy of Lute.  (It's) an honor and comes with a lot of responsibility." 

He also mentioned that he wants to come to a program that can compete for a national championship and that has won a national championship.

As a young assistant coach Miller was always awestruck at how hard Lute worked. Under Olson, the players defined Arizona.  He knew ahead of time how the players he was recruiting would fit in his system.

Deciding Factors in Taking the Position

The success that the program has had. The leadership that the program has had from one person for so long and the passion the community has for the program.

Miller was also impressed by McKale Center.  He specifically mentioned the 71 game home court winning streak from 1987-1992.  Miller was awed by how loud it can get when he played against Arizona as a player in the late 1980's.

He couldn't think of all the players sent to the NBA.  He said he was "attracted to a brand, an arena and a great university"

On his Relationship with his former Boss and Arizona State Coach Herb Sendek

Miller spent seven years under Sendek at Miami (OH) and North Carolina State.  He's a fantastic coach and has done a lot in a short period time at Arizona State. 

On the Importance of Recruiting and Relating to the Players

When asking about salvaging a recruiting class for this fall, Miller said that players contacted him within the first hour of being named Head Coach. When asked about specific players, Milled said he cannot comment on unsigned players. 

He wants to teach Nic Wise his current system.  After Wise delcared for the NBA but did not sign with an agent, Miller has a big selling job on the outstanding point guard.

"The players that are here, we are going to coach them, they are going to work hard. If they are going to be a part of the Arizona program, they will have a great experience and are going to be treated right."

At Xavier he recruited the right types that want to win, come from good families and you don't have to beg them to go to class.

If you treat the players right, success will follow.  Especially in a place that has had past success.  The Players have to know you care about them. 

When asked about the pressure of working at Arizona

Miller relayed that he learned how to deal with the pressure being in a pro sports town like Cincinnati.  He also said that college basketball is revered in Cincinnati with schools like Louisville, Indiana, Butler, Kentucky and Ohio State within a 200 mile radius of the Queen City.

He received a crash course in Arizona history and how to set expectations.  Come with a true system, no experimenting. Every phase of his program has been tested, not just recruiting.   Strength and conditioning different for times of the year.  His philosophy of making players better.