The Arizona Wildcats’ season is over, which means it’s time to assess the state of the program. We have already taken a look at the state of next year’s roster, but what about the head man himself?
What kind of job is Sean Miller doing? Should he be retained for another season? Our Ronnie Stoffle made his case yesterday. Here is what some of our other staff members think.
Unless news comes out that forces Arizona’s hand, Sean Miller absolutely should be Arizona’s coach next season.
Did the Wildcats underachieve this season? Yes. Were they (along with everyone else) robbed of a chance for redemption in the NCAA Tournament? Yes, too.
No doubt much of the shine has worn off, but the fact is Miller has won plenty of games and is still able to bring talent to Tucson. Depending on how the recruiting class finishes next year’s roster could look just as good as this year’s — maybe even better — which would of course bring with it high expectations.
Failure to meet them would naturally bring questions and make Miller’s seat hotter.
That this question is even legitimately being asked shows what people think of Miller and the program, and no doubt the coach can and should be questioned for what’s transpired the last few seasons. But while I am not a fan of keeping someone out of fear you can’t do better, it’s also worth noting the grass may not be greener on the other side.
Brian J. Pedersen
Going into the 2019-20 season it had been my thinking that this was going to be Miller's last with Arizona barring something very unusual happening. I thought that meant a deep NCAA tournament run, to the Elite Eight or further, not a sports-halting global pandemic.
Prior to college basketball (and the sports world) getting put on hold the on-court results certainly made a change justifiable, what with Arizona finishing in the middle of the Pac-12 despite having three protected first round picks in the lineup. But there was still time for something to change, so unless a decision had already been made to part ways I don't think it should happen. There's so much uncertainty right now in sports that it makes sense to try and keep some sense of normalcy around rather than create further upheaval.
I will say this, however. If Arizona were to make a change, the forced recruiting dead period would make it a lot easier for a school to take its time finding a successor, knowing there wouldn't be an urgency to get someone in so they can start reaching out to prospects.
To put it simply, yes, a thousand times yes. In this time of utter turbulence throughout the sports world, a coaching change simply doesn’t make sense. Potentially Miller has other plans and wants to relocate and resign, but upending your basketball program during a global crisis seems like a silly move.
Even if there wasn’t a pandemic, I still believe Miller should have been kept for at least next season. Sure, this team underperformed, but they were NCAA tournament bound and who knows what could have happened later this month.
I think it’s worth reconsidering Miller’s position next year if the team fails to make the tournament and/or vastly underperforms again. For now, Miller ought to remain coach.
I think Miller should be retained, but my answer would have been different if the Wildcats failed to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.
For all the off-the-court drama that has transpired over the last few years, the most concerning stat from a basketball standpoint is that the Wildcats have only won two NCAA Tournament games since the completion of the 2014-15 season. Both those wins came in 2016-17.
In other words, the Wildcats have not won an NCAA Tournament game in four of the last five seasons. Three of the last four if you do not include this season. That, to me, is unacceptable for a program of Arizona’s caliber.
Like I said though, this season could have either erased that concern or further driven it home, and who knows how that would have turned out. In a year in which there were no elite teams, anything could have happened.
It makes the 2020-21 season a make-or-break year. It is the second to last year of Miller’s contract, which is usually when schools have to make a long-term decision since most coaches do not want to stick around on an expiring contract.
The Wildcats should be able to piece together a pretty formidable roster, but if they again fail to make anything of it in March, a new direction is needed.
For all of the complaints that people have about Miller’s schemes and rigidity, I think what has hurt the program the most is the constant roster turnover, one of the side effects of recruiting at such a high level. Even Miller has admitted that creating a cohesive culture in an environment like that is difficult, yet the roster construction continues to be the same.
Arizona will have an entirely new starting lineup next season assuming Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji declare for the NBA Draft.
While there is a genuine argument for “no” here, I will be like everyone else and say that Miller should come back for next season.
My reasoning is a little different though.
If Arizona were to fire Miller, not only would the school have to buy out the remainder of his contract, but they would basically be throwing away next season as well.
That’s because a jettisoning of Miller would mean a total upheaval of the men’s basketball program.
Recruits would likely be lost, returning players could look to enter the transfer portal, and an athletic department that has only hired two head coaches for MBB since 1983 would then feel the pressure of having to bring in a high-profile name to replace him before the start of next season.
Considering that the men’s basketball team is the crown jewel of Arizona Athletics, firing Miller would no doubt create a certain level of turmoil both within the administration and the fan-base that only a bonafide big-name hire would remedy.
To put it simply, I think Miller’s return would give next year’s team the best chance to be successful—even if it doesn’t necessarily have to do with his X’s and O’s.