Sean Miller is opening up about his final years as head coach of Arizona men’s basketball.
In a revelatory article by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, Miller admits that the FBI bribery investigation of the Arizona program left him depleted towards the end of his time as Wildcats head coach.
““I’ll also tell you there was a lot of good with that for me because toward the end of my time at Arizona, I didn’t have anything left,” said Miller. “I really didn’t because of the totality of everything and how I coached. I was out of juice.”
Medcalf’s article paints a picture of a basketball lifer who has rehabilitated himself since being fired by Arizona last April. Miller spent a year away from coaching before returning to Xavier this spring as its head coach.
Miller’s wife Amy affectionally calls him the “new Sean.”
Former Arizona assistant David Miller (no relation), now a member of the Xavier staff, said, ““He’s gone to lunch with us in a month-and-a-half probably more than he ate with our staff at Arizona the last two years combined. Just spending time and getting out of the office, he seems happier.”
Miller recounts an overwhelmingly positive tenure at Arizona mixed with the pressure of never getting over the hump of making a Final Four.
Miller was most elated when Arizona won the Pac-12 championship his second year (2010-11).
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is awesome,’” said Miller. “That was the last party I ever had. Once we got past that first one, it was like, ‘Look, there is a bigger picture. When are we getting to the Final Four?’ And instead of that being helpful, I really think that sometimes, looking back, when that’s what is fueling you, there are a lot of moments you’re skipping over that you could have enjoyed. And if you had enjoyed them, maybe you would have been able to get there.”
The article addresses heavier topics, specifically Miller’s reaction to when the FBI arrested former UA coach Book Richardson in September 2017.
“It was a day of reckoning,” said Miller. “I can’t put it into words. That’s how I felt. The world was ending.”
Medcalf talked with Richardson, as well, who said he felt so much pressure to land top recruits that whenever Arizona would miss out on a significant prospect, he would walk into his office, close the door and cry.
“You get so caught up with the pressure of ‘I gotta perform, I gotta perform, I gotta perform, I have to perform,’” said Richardson. “If I don’t get a kid, what else is my value? ‘I’m worthless. I can’t coach. I’m not that good.’ No one knew what I was going through with that. No one knew that I didn’t think I was good enough.”
Richardson previously told The Athletic that he has only had one interaction with Miller since being arrested, and that was a “quick, awkward hello.”
Richardson appears to have come to terms with his relationship with Miller.
“I got tremendous love for the dude,” said Richardson. “I wish we could sit down and rap. I wish we could go get some crab legs and hang out a little bit. But that may not be in the cards ever again and that’s OK. I wish him well. I want Xavier to get to a Final Four. ... I do want him to win.”
Medcalf’s entire article is worth reading.