It’s fair to say that Dave Heeke didn’t exactly get to ease into his new office chair in Tucson.
Not only has he already been forced to change football coaches, he is now staring down the real possibility of replacing Sean Miller.
The same Miller who drew huge ovations from Arizona Wildcats fans the past three weekends and inspired some new and (usually) hilarious shirts spotted on the Vegas Strip.
The same Miller who has led Arizona to three Elite Eights.
The same Miller who has now made Arizona the laughing stock of the rest of the country.
After a season filled with FBI investigations, drug suspensions, and possibly false ESPN reporting, Miller did the one thing he couldn’t do: get blown out by a MAC team in the first round.
Well, he did that, and now it’s probably time for Arizona to move on from him.
When Miller did not coach against Oregon, it seemed that there was internal movement to get rid of the head coach then and there. But someone stepped in to keep the head coach in place, and based on Miller’s comments and actions the following week, it wasn’t Heeke.
“I appreciate more than anyone can realize, Dr. Robbins and the University carefully considering this matter and acting upon facts,” Miller stated in that now-famous press conference denying the ESPN report he discussed a $100,000 payment to an agent for Deandre Ayton’s services.
“Last but not least, Dr. Robbins, I really appreciate your support,” Miller said on Senior Night while looking right at both Robbins and a visibly uncomfortable Heeke.
There’s obviously tension there, which makes this even more difficult for Arizona’s new-ish athletic director. In the first high-profile hire of his Arizona tenure, Heeke was undermined in his search for a new coach, and Kevin Sumlin was prioritized by someone from up high. And then Miller was kept in place in the same fashion.
It’s tough for an athletic director that was hired not long before this current school president, and the dynamic has been a strange one. Another obstacle in Heeke’s way of making a positive decision in this matter.
But the last barrier? Where exactly does Heeke turn?
It’s not like Arizona is the only school being investigated. In fact, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find an above average college basketball program not being investigated at some depth right now. Schools in all multi-bid conferences have been connected in some way or another, it just so happens to be that Arizona has some of the most high-profile connections.
But how do you make sure you don’t end up with a coach that’ll end up facing sanctions (or worse) of their own? Who’s in the know? Is anyone?
And even if you find a successful guy that is actually free and clear of all the shadiness of college basketball recruiting, is that guy going to want to come to Arizona where sanctions in the near future seem more likely than not? Do you want to take over a returning roster of six guys and no recruits?
Heeke’s job may be the most unenviable in all of college athletics. He’s in a position where he’s being second-guessed by higher level administrators, forced to make a huge decision regarding the school’s most popular sport, all while attempting to clean up a sickening culture that was left behind by his predecessor.
Good luck with the impossible.