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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Wednesday / January 17.
  • Coach's Corner: Arizona's Sean Miller

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    This interview with Arizona Coach Sean Miller at the Reebok All-American Camp is the second in a series of interviews with Division 1 head coaches conducted at camps this summer.

    PHILLY —Just a couple of months ago, Sean Miller was the head coach of a Xavier team that had become a perennial NCAA Tournament fixture.

    But in April, Miller shifted addresses, moving from Cincinnati to Arizona, where he became the heir to a program Lute Olson built into a perennial national powerhouse.

    Arizona won the 1997 NCAA championship under Olson and has appeared in three other Final Fours.

    “I’m fortunate,” Miller said at the recent Reebok All-American Camp. “One thing about college basketball, it changes so dramatically with winning and success. And our success at Xavier and so many of the players that did it, they’re the people that really helped me and our staff get the opportunity at Arizona.”

    Miller becomes the fourth coach in four seasons at Arizona, following Olson, Kevin O’Neill (now at USC) and interim coach Russ Pennell.

    “I don’t know a whole lot about our team at Arizona for obvious reasons,” Miller said. “We have an incoming class that I feel good bout but none of those guys have ever played college basketball.”

    That class includes five players: small forward Derrick Williams of La Mirada, Calif.; New York guards Kevin Parrom and Lamont “Momo” Jones (pictured); Los Angeles small forward Solomon Hill; and Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy center Kyryl Natyazhko, a native of the Ukraine.

    Three of those players — Williams, Jones and Hill — initially committed to Southern Cal, but Jones and Williams changed their minds in the wake of the O.J. Mayo scandal that saw former USC coach Tim Floyd step down.

    “Our focus right now is to continue to build our program through recruiting the right people and balancing one class after the next and hopefully adding depth to our team,” Miller said.

    Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson also recruited Brooklyn star Lance Stephenson, but Stephenson ended up choosing Cincinnati.

    It appears that Miller was more guarded about recruiting Stephenson, who carried a lot of baggage with his sexual assault case, Internet reality series and highly involved father.

    “We’re trying to take a broad scope of being smart,” Miller said. “Sometimes the mistakes that can really haunt you are the ones you make in a rush or right when you first get to a place.

    “As best we can and it’s imperfect we’re trying to have a plan for three years, five years to make sure the decisions we make take care of us at that point.”

    Richardson gives the ‘Cats entree to the fertile New York/New Jersey recruiting ground, but Miller was quick to emphasize that A) Arizona recruits nationally; and B) Richardson can flat out coach.

    “The Arizona brand established through Coach Olson in an unbelievable 25-year run has allowed Arizona to have players from all places in our country,” Miller said

    “Khalid Reeves was from New York City, Michael Wright was from Chicago and Jordan Hill is from Atlanta.”

    On Richardson as a coach, Miller said:

    “Book is an excellent coach. He’s great with people. Just to label him as a recruiter or to specifically give him New York, his relationship goes well beyond that. I think he’s going to be an effective recruiter anywhere in the country and particularly back here because of his strong ties. But he’s also a very good basketball coach and there’s nobody better at guiding players as part of Arizona.

    “He has a gift in really being able to make them feel comfortable and helping them and guiding them.”

    Arizona lost Chase Budinger and Hill to the NBA, but returns senior point guard Nic Wise, who made himself eligible for the NBA Draft on April 16 but did not hire an agent. Wise averaged 15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in 35 appearances this past season.

    “Nic Wise is the most established player that we have and I think he’ll be one of the better point guards in our conference,” Miller said.

    Jones, out of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, is skilled enough to spell Wise at the point or share the backcourt with him.

    “He’s physically mature enough right now as a freshman to have an impact as a freshman,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. “I think he fits in with their plans. If they want him to score he can do that because he shoots it so well. If they want him to run their team, he can do that, too.”

    Arizona also returns 6-6 junior forward Jamelle Horne, who averaged 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds.

    “You have several players that just haven’t had the opportunity to play but any one of them could blossom,” Miller said. “There’s just a lot of newness, a lot of unknowns. All of them are going to have to adjust to a new coach and new staff.”


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

    • “And our success at Xavier and so many of the players that did it, they’re the people that really helped me and our staff get the opportunity at Arizona.”

      >>SM said this because he ticked off some of his former players by taking off and not keeping in touch with them.

      “We have an incoming class that I feel good bout but none of those guys have ever played college basketball.”

      >>Translation – Don’t expect us to be dominant in the PAC-10 this year – but if we are, give me all the credit (again)…

      • SM said this because he ticked off some of his former players by taking off and not keeping in touch with them.

        Actually, one player whined in some article about how Miller didn’t go out of his way to wipe said player’s nose when he didn’t have the talent to make the NBA.

        Y’know, when Miller was first hired by Arizona, I had some sympathy for Xavier fans. I knew they’d lost their previous coach not long before. I’m just getting tired of the petty bitterness. Grow up and move on. Arizona has gone through the same thing in football. We had a great football coach in the ’80s. His success led to an offer from USC. Guess what? He took it. Why? Because USC was a better football job than Arizona. You know what else? Arizona is a better basketball job than Xavier. Live with it. Get a grip. Support the players and coach you have now, because your pettiness just sounds like a spurned teenaged schoolboy talking about how his ex-girlfriend is a slut because she left him.

    • Solomon Hill left USC before the news of Floyd handing money to an O.J. runner was reported. Hill always liked U of A, thats why he did not sign with a school unlike Gaddy and Moser, Hill was waiting to see who was hired at the U of A so he could recommit to Arizona.

    • AZ,

      Whatz up?

      Just wanted to let you know….

      YOUR SITE was voted No.#1 Arizona Wildcat site – East Coast.

      Great accomplishment and WORK.

      YOU need to get USC Trojan back.
      Dude,… Did you read the WWW business model article.???
      How his model works.

    • The ARIZONA staff has not taken a break…………

      And VEGAS was no exception.

      “..WORK ETHIC on the recruiting trail .
      THE same WORK ETHIC which is being taught to the players, future NBA players.

      The story goes like this….

      From the last day of the Vegas tournaments, July 26.

      Miller and his assistant James Whitford had early afternoon flights from Vegas to Phoenix for a July 27 tournament but recruits Ray McCallum, Trey Zeigler and Dominique Ferguson advanced to play in the championship game of the Reebok Summer Championships, which was scheduled to start at 6:00pm.

      There was only one ticket left from Vegas to Phoenix that night, but instead of leaving early like ALMOST ALL coaches did, MILLER and Whitford stayed to see all three recruits win the title, and then made the DRIVE to Phoenix that night.

      They were in the gym in Phoenix first game in the morning.
      That alone won’t get Miller a commitment, but it shows he’s willing to go the extra mile for Arizona – an elite program ”

      PS- The DRIVE from Vegas to Phoenix is a hell hole of a drive.
      It is nothing like Phill to AC.
      It is one of the worse drive anyone would want to take.

      AZ– YOU have some good stories about BOOK.
      Share those with your viewers….

    • LUTE OLSON is being honored….

      Thirty-seven former Lute Olson players have confirmed plans to attend a ceremony for the retired coach on Saturday at McKale Center, according to a UA release Monday.

      YES, NYC player KHALID REEVES will be there!

      Of the 37 players, 13 have played in the NBA: Mike Bibby, A.J. Bramlett, Jud Buechler, Sean Elliott, Reggie Geary, Andre Iguodala, Richard Jefferson, Steve Kerr, Khalid Reeves, Eddie Smith, Tom Tolbert, Luke Walton and Pete Williams.
      Also scheduled to attend are former Arizona State coach Bill Frieder and two of Olson’s former Iowa players, Ronnie Lester and John Dorsee.

      The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m…..Aug. 8


    • Read more about the LUTE OLSON ceremony…

      Check it out.

      Looks like Josh Pastner will also be there.
      Memphis coach..

      Real good to hear.