In the midst of Arizona trying to find itself, it becomes obvious that Sean Miller handles his teams differently than most.
A question looms with a team each season: Will it find its identity from its coach? Will the players mesh together?
There's a fine line between a coach implementing his system and a coach playing to his personnel. Miller is the best of both worlds.
We found out why last season's Elite Eight run came from a team not necessarily the most talented. This was a squad that had ugly losses and impressive wins throughout the regular season. This year, like last, Miller is trying to find his team's identity.
The College Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 edition was recently released, and Miller wrote this foreword for the book, which acts as a season almanac, covering all Division I teams. It's a great addition to a hoops fan's library -- but from an Arizona perspective, Miller's foreword makes a lot of sense and takes you into the mind of the Wildcats' head coach.
Mostly, Miller emphasizes that college ball is a players' game -- not a coach's. That may be exactly why you see Miller fiddling with his team's lineups so much more than any other coach. He's giving players a chance to prove themselves, and while his job is to coach the fundamentals of playing defense and team ball on offense, it's up to his team to find it's identity.
The only Miller-infused aspect to his teams, then, is to "Play to win."
From the foreword:
My job as the head coach at Arizona is to teach our players the meaning of "Play to Win." My biggest responsibility in doing this is to identify our players' strengths and then enable them to execute these strengths within the framework of our team concept over and over again. This becomes our identity -- who we are and what we do well. It's up to me as the coach to bring out this identity. This is essential in our sport, with one game ending and the next one beginning in just 24 to 48 hours, especially during conference play and the postseason. Our primary focus has to be on our own execution and statistical analysis, not our opponents!"
You can see that Miller's philosophies are played out, even this early in the season. And perhaps, that's why he's wrangled two elite recruiting classes in a row.
He ends the foreword with two notable goals. To be a players' program and to play to win. So far, so good.