The Arizona Wildcats went through a slew of adversity in the regular season including injuries and a suspension to some of their most important players, yet they managed to finish 27-4 overall and 16-2 in the Pac-12, earning a share of the conference title.
Coaches across the Pac-12 took notice and voted Sean Miller as the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
“We have a man upstairs in a big office who knows what he’s doing,” UA guard Kadeem Allen said Monday. “We all believe in Coach Miller and he’s been doing it for a while and we do what we do and what we do works.”
Miller said this season is the “proudest” that he’s been of his coaching staff and his team in his time at Arizona.
“There were just too many times from October on that we didn’t really know our outcome, we didn’t really know our future,” he said. “And we got hit with a lot different things that could have derailed us, but it didn’t.
“If give an honest answer on why, it’s because of the incredible foundation and support that we have here at Arizona.”
More specifically, Miller said Arizona’s ability to stay on track was the result of three things.
First, the UA athletic department and the rest of the Arizona basketball coaching (and training) staff.
“I know Greg (Byrne) has left us and we’re thrilled to have Dave (Heeke), but he put us in a position to be successful in a lot of ways,” Miller said of the former UA athletic director.
“The weekly, the daily interaction that we have from all the way back to the beginning of the school year, handling all these situations. To our managers that don’t get enough credit, to our strength and conditioning coach and trainer. There are a lot of trainers that don’t have a relationship with the strength coach and vice versa and there’s a disconnect between the coaching staff and the trainer and the strength coach, that’s the furthest thing from the truth here.
“Those guys are assistant coaches here. Those guys are assistant coaches here at Arizona. Justin Kokoskie and Chris Rounds. If you think about all the situations that those guys have handled, part of why we didn’t get derailed is because of how great they are. And the three assistant coaches, they build our team through their recruiting efforts through scouting and coaching.”
Secondly, Miller credited his team’s low-maintenance freshmen as well as Kadeem Allen, who was the team’s senior leader and made the All-Pac-12 Defensive Team.
“Highly-recruited freshmen bring a lot of unnecessary drama. It’s just the world of college basketball,” Miller said. “They brought a lot of talent with very, very little drama. Kobi (Simmons), Rawle (Alkins), and Lauri (Markkanen) and if you consider Keanu (Pinder) as part of that class, those guys have gotten the job done.
“We have one senior on this team and he deserves a lot of credit. I always give him a lot of credit, but Kadeem Allen embodies all of the qualities that you would want as a coach to lead your team. He’s done it by example.”
Finally, Miller acknowledged the Arizona fanbase, and not just the one in Tucson.
“If you look at our fans and the support we have in McKale for home games and how we hear that “U of A” chant on the road, the support allows us to move through some of that adversity,” Miller said.
“That’s why we’re where we’re at and hopefully it elevates us to having a great March.”
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