Landing Sean Miller as the men’s basketball coach is a victory for the University of Arizona, even if athletic director Jim Livengood had to go into overtime before coming away with a successor to Lute Olson.
Last week – after USC coach Tim Floyd had turned down the Cats, after Washington State’s Tony Bennett had taken a job at Virginia, after Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl had decided to stay in Knoxville and after several other schools had filled their hoops-coaching vacancies – it looked as though the Cats might be forced to settle for a second-tier talent.
Instead, UA got Miller, 40, a rising star among college coaches who led Cincinnati’s Xavier University to four NCAA Tournaments in five years, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2008.
Details of Miller’s salary haven’t been announced, though Internet reports not confirmed by UA place it at about $2 million a year. That might provoke gasps – Olson’s base salary at the time of his retirement was $737,790 – but it’s the price of luring big-time basketball talent.
UA was searching while the coaching landscape was rocked by the unprecedented $4 million a year that Memphis coach John Calipari accepted to switch to Kentucky. In that context, $2 million doesn’t sound too outrageous. And Miller’s salary will be paid by the self-supporting athletic department, not by taxpayers.
Replacing Olson is an impossible task; it’s like replacing Mount Rushmore. But by getting Miller, UA seems to have nailed a buzzer-beater.