There are too many clouds surrounding Arizona Wildcats basketball right now where staying still is simply not an option that should be considered.
Arizona needs to move on from Sean Miller and everything associated with the past couple of years.
As has been detailed since the team’s 21-but-should-have-been-more point loss to the Buffalo Bulls in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, there are six returning players, one returning assistant coach (who missed time this year for an NCAA rules infraction), and zero recruits.
If there were ever a time for Dave Heeke to clean house with Arizona basketball, it’s now.
The embarrassing loss to Buffalo is the least of Arizona’s problems. Longtime Miller assistant Book Richardson was arrested on federal charges before the season got started, another former assistant in Joe Pasternack has been heavily implicated several times in various FBI reports (including the original documents), and Miller himself admitted he was approached about paying players to come to Arizona.
He admitted it.
“I also want you to know that the one time that someone suggested to me paying a player to come to the University of Arizona, I did not agree to it,” Miller said the day he denied ESPN’s report of talking about payments for players. “It never happened and that player did not come to the University of Arizona.”
The problem is he knew what was going on, and it’s also a problem that he admitted to knowing Christian Dawkins and that there have been several allegations of agents attending Arizona practices on a regular basis. And the problem is that no assistants seem to have been reprimanded for any of these practices.
So Miller knew. Even if the ESPN report is 100 percent false (which I have a hard time believing that they would run something that was wholly inaccurate), he already has those NCAA issues coming his way because the head coach is responsible for the actions of those under him.
All of these issues have led to there being zero recruits set for the 2018 class. This was always Miller’s calling card, and now that Richardson (and whatever else comes with that) are not currently available, it’s possible that Miller’s true colors in this field are showing.
Even with those top-three recruiting classes Arizona hauled in every year, the ceiling has been the Elite Eight, and in the last three years the ceiling has been losing to his old school Xavier (which has lasted longer in the tournament than Arizona for five of the past nine seasons).
These recruits don’t develop the way they should under Miller, and all that top talent goes to waste, much the way it did under Lorenzo Romar’s final years at Washington.
Yes, Arizona wins lots of games every year and Miller’s winning percentage is kind of absurd, but the Pac-12 is a historically bad “power” conference in the last five years. And Arizona won just two of their regular season conference games by more than 14 points this year.
With competition that weak, a team with the alleged talent the Wildcats had should not be playing close games like that week in and week out. Perhaps if Miller wasn’t stubborn and sticking to the only defensive and offensive systems he ever has, maybe this team is actually able to play to its strengths instead of being held back by its coach.
There was a team chemistry issue this year leading to that, which is another thing I point to when saying Arizona should start anew with its program.
Ever since January 2016, there has been something toxic about the Arizona locker room. That of course is when the whole Elliott Pitts sexual misconduct situation surfaced, which divided that team (and former players). I’d argue that Arizona basketball has not recovered from that, and while none of the players that are slated to be in Tucson in 2018-19 were around for that, it’s obvious to me that Miller is incapable of making a “team”.
We’ve seen Miller call his players motherfuckers on the sideline. We’ve seen him publicly call his team out time and time again in the media. Anyone who has ever spent any real time around Miller knows he is abrasive at best, flat-out unlikable at worst. This is all without even mentioning the bizarre PED and Allonzo Trier story which has so many different versions I’m not even sure Trier and Miller themselves know which one is true anymore.
If you’re an Arizona fan, you should want someone with character representing your program. You should want someone who develops his players not only on the court but off of it.
Rich Rodriguez failed to do these things, and Miller is failing to do these things.
Arizona needs to go in a different direction with both programs this year no matter how uncertain the rest of the college basketball landscape is.