Arizona’s divorce from former head coach Sean Miller hasn’t left him with ill will towards the program.
In fact, Miller is still one of the Wildcats’ biggest supporters.
That was one of the takeaways from CBS Sports college basketball writer Matt Norlander’s wide-ranging interview with Miller and his wife Amy. Norlander followed Miller around as he coached Xavier at PK85 in Portland, Oregon.
Miller seems to have found peace with his departure from Arizona in spring 2021, which put an end to a tumultuous four-year period that saw the program become embroiled in a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Miller told Norlander:
“We had our fair share of great moments and success. I have zero bitterness toward Arizona. I have three sons that are graduating from there. Three. Every one of them had not a good experience — a great experience. The people, the community, the fans, just our friends, you miss them because they treated you right. And I think the last part of it is, it was just time, man. I think Arizona is in a better place. I think in some ways I’m in a better place, you know? Would I have loved to be able to finish the direction that we were moving? Of course, but the fact that it happened, in some ways, is a gift to me. And I’m thrilled that Arizona a year ago did what they did, and obviously they’re in great hands with Tommy moving forward.”
Miller admitted in not-so-explicit terms that the FBI’s investigation served as a distraction in his final years in Tucson.
“The last several years in Arizona, there’s no way that I could have been the best coach that I’m capable of being. There’s too many factors that wouldn’t allow that to happen. And when you’re fighting like that, it’s so hard. It’s hard enough to win. It’s hard enough to be successful when you have everything moving in the right direction. But when you’re fighting that fight, and things aren’t aligned, I think to some degree, the peace of mind is that I’m looking for a new beginning.”
Miller took a year off coaching before accepting the Xavier job in March. During that hiatus, Miller watched a lot of Arizona basketball and took notes on how Tommy Lloyd used his former players.
“He enjoyed watching Arizona, which at the beginning I think was harder, but he enjoyed watching it because he respects what Tommy did with the players,” Amy Miller said. “I think that was another thing where, never did I ever think he would change his philosophy in coaching. But the time off and watching the coaches has allowed him to do things differently.”
In a quote that didn’t make the story, Miller told Norlander that taking the Xavier job has allowed him to watch Arizona again without any “torn or mixed feelings.”
An Arizona quote that got cut from the final copy: “Me coming back to Xavier and having this next chapter, that's a really good thing for me because I can cheer for Arizona. I can watch Arizona for what it is and really have no torn or mixed feelings.”— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) November 30, 2022