The Phoenix Suns received the No. 1 pick for the first time in franchise history and used that privilege to select Deandre Ayton.
That’s a huge investment (literally), so you can bet Suns management did plenty of research before deciding on the Bahamian big man.
That included a 90-minute phone call with Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller, who gave the Suns insight on what it’s like to coach Ayton and how Ayton handled the well-documented controversy that surrounded the UA program during his freshman season.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said Miller was “honest about everything good and bad” in their conversation, though acknowledged “there wasn’t much to criticize.”
“What I’ll say about those two guys is they have a special bond,” McDonough said. “We talked to Deandre about Coach Miller and that shines through. Then we talked to Coach Miller about Deandre, and those two are very tight. There’s a lot of mutual respect there. They won a lot. They were the Pac-12 Tournament champions and regular-season champions, then they went through some controversy and I think that probably strengthened the bond.”
That connection was apparent when Miller was celebrating at Ayton’s side when he was announced as the Suns’ selection.
“[Coach] just said, ‘I love you,’ and I said ‘I love you too, Coach’.’” Ayton said at his post-draft presser. “We went through a lot, and I’m just happy he knows the type of work I put in. He knows I worked on my craft every day to get to this point.”
“They drafted a really special player and also a great kid and somebody whose family really enjoys living in Phoenix.”— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) June 22, 2018
-Sean Miller on Deandre Ayton pic.twitter.com/SPGFveDDti
Indeed. Miller has been coaching in college basketball in some form or another since 1992, but continues to reiterate how he’s never seen a player like Ayton.
“Sean’s been doing this a long time at a very high level. He’s won a ton of games throughout the course of his career and coached some great players. And he just talking about how unique Deandre is,” McDonough said. “Not only in terms of the players he’s coached, but the players he’s recruited or coached against. He’s just a unique player, a unique person. Guys like him don’t come around often.”
The Suns plan to maintain a relationship with Miller, who they view as a valuable resource now that Ayton is a key part of their rebuild.
“We look forward to spending more time with Coach Miller, strengthening that relationship and one idea we have — and I haven’t talked to Sean about this yet — is putting him and (Suns head coach) Igor (Kokoskov) in touch and having them talk about what it’s like to coach Deandre from an in-game perspective, from a player development perspective,” McDonough said.
“I think those two guys will hit it off and get along well, and be able to exchange some good ideas.”