The Arizona Wildcats were coached by Lorenzo Romar on Saturday at Oregon as Sean Miller’s status continues to be in limbo after an ESPN report said the FBI has wiretaps of him discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the signing of star freshman Deandre Ayton.
Miller, who flew back to Tucson, decided it was best that he sit out Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, Ayton was ruled eligible by the UA and played. His family released a statement before the game denying that he was involved in any illegal activities.
Ayton was booed loudly by the pro-Oregon crowd, but clearly wasn’t fazed by it, as he posted 28 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks in Arizona’s 98-93 overtime loss.
Romar spoke to the media afterward, and said Miller and UA athletic director Dave Heeke informed him earlier Saturday that he would be coaching against the Ducks.
Here is the transcript of Romar’s presser (the video can be found below). Unsurprisingly, not much was said.
“It was a heck of a game. The number 42 really sticks out in my mind. 20 points off of turnovers. 22 points second chance. That was the game. (Oregon) did a really good job of applying pressure, picking us up full court and getting us to turn the ball over in one period of the game. I thought it changed the complexion of the game. I give them a lot of credit of that.
“But our inability to keep them off the backboards really hurt us. I thought we did a decent job of defending and they’d get the ball back and then they’d score. I was really proud of our guys, how we came out, the focus that we had. It was really good to see, but we didn’t finish the game.”
Q. When you addressed the team pre-game, it’s a weird situation, what did you say to them?
Romar: “Coach Miller talked to his team. We talked to the team about the game, and it’s just a situation that was tough. If our leader isn’t out there with us, I don’t think we’ve gone out and done anything without him being there, his presence, so it’s tough. But again I thought our guys were phenomenal in how we came out and began that game.”
Q. How do you think Deandre has handled the last 24 hours?
Romar: “He’s getting through it. You look at his play tonight, it seemed like he handled it pretty well.”
Q. What do you think that’s like for such a young guy to be at the center of all of this?
Romar: “Do you remember when you were 19? It’s not easy. It’s not easy for anyone. But again, I thought he did a great job and handled it in a very mature fashion.”
Q. How has he been able to do that?
Romar: “Deandre has a mother that is a rock. She is a rock, and she does a great job of encouraging him, motivating him, and keeping him grounded.”
Q. Do you expect to be the coach for the rest of season?
Romar: “I don’t know I can’t answer that. ... And when I say I can’t answer that it’s because I don’t know.”
Q. When do you expect to have some clarity?
Romar: “I don’t know. ... We have to wait and see what happens. We dealt with this the way we dealt with it tonight, and then we’ll move on and see what happens”
Q. Knowing the program, what do you think is best for everyone right now?
Romar: “I don’t know if I’ll comment on that. I’ll just leave that alone.”
Q. (the question was cut out, but it was probably about how the team handled the situation)
Romar: “First of all tonight, I thought we blocked it out pretty good. So I thought we got a start on it, and we did a pretty good job of that. We just have to continue to persevere and wait and see what’s going to happen tomorrow and the next day, and we’ll tackle it then.”
Q. Do you think Deandre got fatigued down the stretch?
Romar: “He probably did. He was playing so well. We didn’t really do a good job getting him the ball the last 10 minutes. He played a lot. 44 minutes. So definitely I’m sure he wore down down the stretch.”
Q. There’s a lot of people around the country throwing arrows at your program right now. Even at you because you were involved at the University of Washington with Markelle Fultz. What do you say to all the critics who wonder what’s going on in college basketball, specifically at Arizona?
Romar: “I would have a whole lot to say, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk about that right now.”
Q. (the question was cut out, but it was probably something about how the players were able to deal with a situation like this)
Romar: “It’s difficult, but kids are pretty resilient at this age. I also think Coach Miller has done a phenomenal job of keeping things together. Just bringing it at a high level everyday, keeping guys focused and I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Q. When Rawle got (called for a technical foul), did you think that was emotion from the whole day ... or just a dumb decision?
Romar: “I can’t say. I’m not going to call it a dumb decision, but guys compete. It was a hard-fought game. Everyone was competing in there and sometimes those things happen that way. And I’m sure he’d like to take it back if he could, but sometimes those things happen when you’re competing at a high level like that. He was playing very hard tonight.”
Q. What is the worst part of all this for you personally?
Romar: “I don’t know the answer to that. I see this as, I am part of a group, I’m part of a team. And when you’re in the foxhole, you’re trying to figure out how to win. You don’t have time to sit back for self-reflection, how it’s affecting you, and all that. We’re just trying to tackle each day and stay with it.”