It’s almost been two weeks since the Arizona Wildcats played their last game, yet there is still no clarity on Sean Miller’s contract. It’s still set to expire after the upcoming season.
UA president Robert C. Robbins has said publicly that Miller is “our coach” and “we’re working with him about remaining our coach” but other reports say he would prefer to part ways. Until there is a resolution, the speculation will continue.
As a reminder, here are the three routes Arizona can go with this and why they make sense (if they make sense at all).
Why Arizona should make a coaching change
This is simple: Arizona basketball is not living up to its standards. The Wildcats are just over .500 in the Pac-12 over the past three seasons and have not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2016-17. Major sanctions are likely headed their way too. The program has not been in a good place and sports are a “what have you done for me lately?” industry.
New leadership could also liven a fanbase that has been jaded by the middling results on the court and the drama off of it.
Why Arizona should extend Miller
Until the IARP settles Arizona’s infractions case and doles out a punishment—which could take months, if not years—the UA head coaching job is not as appealing as it normally would be. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Not only does that mean Arizona could struggle to find an upgrade over Miller, but also that whoever takes over the program would not have a real idea of what they are stepping in to.
It has also been reported that Arizona’s big-money boosters support Miller. If that’s the case, the UA would risk losing valuable resources if it goes against their wishes. The athletic department is already facing a massive budget deficit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Can it really afford to alienate important donors?
And while Arizona has been a middle of the Pac team lately, it has a lot of promising young players and, for once, a bulk of them are expected to return next season. The program finally seems to have some sustainability to it. A coaching change jeopardizes that.
Yes, there is still too much uncertainty and the on-court product hasn’t been good enough to feel completely comfortable about committing to Miller long term, so a short extension with school-friendly terms would be ideal.
That way the Wildcats can claim they are committed to their coach but still easily part ways if the team underperforms next season and/or if the IARP results are severe. But would Miller be willing to accept an extension like that? Would the Arizona Board of Regents approve it?
Why Arizona should stand pat
The only way this makes sense is if the IARP results are released soon. Arizona would finally have a real sense of the state of the program and be able to make an informed coaching decision accordingly. But it’s doubtful that will happen within the next few weeks—President Robbins has even said as much—so doing nothing is the worst-case scenario right now. As Jeff Goodman put it, the best thing Arizona can do is “do something now.”
It’s difficult, if not impossible, for a coach to recruit on an expiring contract. Standing pat would just stall the rebuild and ensure that Miller’s contract is a distraction during the 2021-22 season when the Wildcats should be focused on competing for a Pac-12 championship.