Fri, 23 Apr 2021

Arizona fires coach Sean Miller after 12 seasons

Field Level Media
08 Apr 2021, 05:40 GMT+10

Arizona and coach Sean Miller parted ways Wednesday after 12 seasons.

Miller compiled a 302-109 record in Tucson, leading the Wildcats to seven NCAA Tournament appearances and three trips to the Elite Eight (2011, 2014, 2015).

Arizona was 150-68 in the Pac-12 since 2009-10 under Miller, winning five regular-season championships and three conference tournament titles.

The Wildcats were 17-9 this season, 11-9 in the Pac-12, but were ineligible for the conference and NCAA tourneys due to a self-imposed postseason ban.

The school issued a statement Wednesday saying the 52-year-old Miller "will be leaving the program." The statement said the school will honor the terms of his existing contract, which had one year remaining.

"We appreciate Sean's commitment to our basketball program and to the university," athletic director Dave Heeke said in the news release. "After taking the many factors involved into account, we simply believe that we need a fresh start and now is the time. I want to thank Sean, Amy and their sons for their service to the university and wish them the very best in the future."

Associate head coach Jack Murphy will serve as the interim head coach. The school said a national search for a new coach will begin immediately.

"After conferring with Dave Heeke since the season's end, it has become clear that our men's basketball program -- and our University -- needs to write a new chapter in our history, and that begins with a change of leadership," university president Robert C. Robbins said in the release. "Arizona Basketball means so much to so many and, as stewards of the program, we must always act in the best interests of the university. I believe our future is bright, and I look forward to welcoming a new head coach to the Wildcat family."

Arizona announced its postseason ban in December amid a lengthy NCAA probe, which was originally sparked by the September 2017 arrest of former assistant coach Emmanuel "Book" Richardson in a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.

Last month, Arizona released the NCAA's Notice of Allegations containing five Level I charges against the school, including a lack of head coach responsibility by Miller and a lack of institutional control by the university, according to the Arizona Republic.

Back in June 2017, Richardson told undercover FBI agents that he paid $40,000 to a high school coach to ensure that Rawle Alkins was academically eligible to play for the school. Alkins played two seasons with the Wildcats in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Richardson pleaded guilty in January 2019 to accepting $20,000 in bribes to steer players to Christian Dawkins' sports management companies and other financial planners. Richardson was sentenced to three months in prison and two years of probation for his role in the corruption scandal.

During a trial in New York in April 2019, an FBI wiretap suggested Miller "fronted" the deal to land highly recruited center Deandre Ayton to the school.

The call was intercepted on June 2, 2017, with Dawkins discussing the situation with business partner Munish Sood. Another call played in the courtroom recorded Richardson telling Dawkins that Miller was paying Ayton $10,000 a month, although Richardson later insisted "I have no knowledge of Sean Miller paying players or attempting to pay them."

Ayton ended up signing with Arizona and played one season before becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

In February 2018, when allegations were first reported that Miller was involved with paying Ayton, the Arizona coach vehemently denied it.

"Let me be very, very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona," Miller said. "In fact, I had never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after Deandre publicly announced that he was coming to our school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory."

Miller coached at Xavier for five seasons (2004-09) before joining Arizona, leading the Musketeers to four NCAA Tournament appearances and a 120-47 record.

Miller's younger brother, Archie, was fired as head coach at Indiana on March 15.

--Field Level Media

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