Arizona coach Sean Miller did not speak with the media after Saturday’s loss to UCLA, so he addressed his ejection Tuesday for the first time.
He regrets it.
“Obviously it took almost 550 games for that to happen to me, but that’s not going to help our basketball team,” he said at his weekly press conference. “I owe our team more. The fact that we spotted UCLA three points and that they converted three of the four technical free throws, that’s a detriment to winning and (it’s) putting everybody in a tough position. The staff, players, etc. I certainly regret it.”
Miller was ejected with 12 and a half minutes left in the second half, picking up his second technical foul with Arizona leading 47-44. He had been barking at the officials, complaining that Nico Mannion was fouled on a drive, though replays showed it might have been a clean block (or at least the announcers calling the game, including UA alum Richard Jefferson, thought it was).
“Maybe I missed that,” Miller said. “I mean, from my perspective I thought Nico got fouled. If he didn’t, I was wrong.”
Miller declined to share what he said to the officials that got him the boot, though at one point the cameras showed him mouthing the words “Hey, don’t f—k with me.”
“Hey, don’t f*** with me”.— Brandon Lloyd (@blloyd8298) March 1, 2020
How is Sean Miller still employed? pic.twitter.com/yystP3320F
“I certainly rubbed them the wrong way and that’s really all my comment,” Miller said. “I don’t want to get suspended or fined.”
The way the game ended was punishment enough.
“It’s a head scratcher that in the final nine (minutes) we had eight turnovers and became unraveled and unglued,” he said. “It’s a shame obviously. With two and a half minutes to go we were up four.”
Senior Day changes
Miller said Arizona will honor its seniors before Saturday’s regular-season finale as opposed to after it like they have for years. Sixteen players and managers will be commemorated, and doing that after a game that tips off at 8 p.m. local time would simply be too late.
“It’s not because we’re worried about winning or losing or we don’t value this group as much as others, that’s furthest from the truth,” Miller said. “It’s just like a lot of things you have to adjust to the time.”
As usual, Arizona’s senior class is a ragtag group. None of the four scholarship seniors started their careers with the program. Chase Jeter transferred in from Duke prior to the 2017-18 season, Dylan Smith joined in 2016-17 after a season at UNC Asheville, and Stone Gettings and Max Hazzard have only worn a UA uniform for one season, being added as graduate transfers.
It’s a far cry from the days when homegrown players like Sean Elliott or even Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright came through the program.
“That’s what Senior Night was at that moment,” Miller said. “It’s not that anymore just because of there’s an assortment of different careers.”
Arizona has even honored underclassmen on Senior Day before. Two seasons ago, Miller implored the crowd to congratulate Deandre Ayton, Rawle Alkins, and Allonzo Trier, who were planning to declare for the NBA Draft after the season.
Arizona could have found itself in a similar situation this year with freshmen Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji all projected to be first-round picks, but Miller said their futures won’t be addressed until after the season.
“That’s really the only fair way to do it,” he said. “For us it’s to coach those guys, hold them accountable, allow them to be the best players they can become and enjoy the month of March, which in college basketball is the biggest month of them all. So that’s our focus. At that point when it all ends, each of them will go their own way and whatever they need from us, we’re going to give it to them.”
DesJardins considering transferring
Walk-on Jake DesJardins will be one of the players participating in Senior Day ceremonies. The redshirt junior is on track to graduate from the Eller College of Management in the spring.
He is the only walk-on who has not played this season, allowing him to preserve a fifth year of eligibility and, perhaps, use it to play somewhere else next season.
“His plan is he’s gonna finish the Eller program this spring, I guess one or two classes left, and then he is going to potentially, I don’t know if he’s made up his mind, go the grad transfer route and play it maybe a lower level where he can contribute more,” Miller said. “That’s something that him and I have talked about. That’s why I’m not putting him in the game.”