The Arizona Wildcats moved on from Sean Miller in a move that felt inevitable to happen one way or another in the next twelve months.
Either Arizona was going to definitively cut ties with the once meteoric Sean Miller or Miller was going to bail the first moment he could after being publicly humiliated by his bosses for the last two months.
While I believe it was the right thing for the program to do, there’s no denying the manner in which it happened doesn’t invite a lot of confidence.
Instead of acting with conviction and confidence, the UofA brass was timid and indecisive. It was almost like they didn’t have the fortitude to fire Miller so they were going to wait until he did it for them. That's not leadership.
But make no mistake, this was the right move after twelve years.
Plenty of Arizona fans would disagree and point to Miller’s multitude of accomplishments at Arizona. He won nearly 75% of his games, led his team to three Elite 8’s, won five conference championships and countless recruiting victories in his twelve years on the job.
Many of those fans view it as capitulating to a media mob that has unfairly painted Sean Miller and Arizona as the face of college athletics cheating while celebrating a lifetime contract for Bill Self. Thats a different fight all together. This isn’t about Miller vs. ESPN, or Miller vs. FBI/NCAA, this was about Miller vs. Arizona basketball’s legacy.
In the end, Miller could not over come:
- Arizona losing its status as the flagship west coast and Pac 12 basketball program
- Last winning an NCAA tournament game in 2016
- Losing to Buffalo, Xavier and Wichita State in three consecutive years with rosters that featured a combined seven players who would play on NBA rosters
- Losing to Wisconsin twice in the Elite 8 while having four first round picks on his roster
- Watching Arizona State try to brand itself as GuardU on his watch as Miller’s team consistently struggled with point guard play
- Peaking in Year 2 by beating Duke in the Sweet 16
- Producing nine NBA First Round picks but zero Final Fours
- Failing to adapt, evolve and adjust his in game coaching style
- Consistently alienating parts of the Tucson community
The last twelve years were not a mistake. Arizona wasn’t hoodwinked by a used car salesman who plundered its history for his own personal gain. Hell, if you would’ve had me bet the house on whether Miller would’ve won a national championship at Arizona or not when he was hired, I would’ve bet everything on “Yes!”.
Miller gave to the program as much as he took away.
By the end of his tenure however, Miller felt less like a steward of the program and more like a power hungry ruler afraid to leave his castle.
Arizona basketball is bigger than Sean Miller. It's more than one person. It's more than one player. It's a family of loosely connected basketball junkies all filling different roles in a community that reflects college athletics at its absolute best.
The job requires a caretaker, not a climber.
It's an extraordinary program that has become very ordinary.
And that will always be a fireable offense at Arizona.