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‘Patient’ Miller takes UA reins

New coach Sean Miller receives a warm welcome from UA students on his arrival at McKale Center Tuesday morning.

New coach Sean Miller receives a warm welcome from UA students on his arrival at McKale Center Tuesday morning.

Sean Miller said he took the Arizona basketball job to “build on” former coach Lute Olson’s legacy.

The former Xavier University coach, whose new contract will pay him $2 million a year and include a $1 million signing bonus, met the Tucson-area media Tuesday at a news conference at McKale Center.

Miller’s base pay will be $1.6 million a year, plus $400,000 annually in NIKE money. UA athletic director Jim Livengood said contracts can only be five years, “but we’re working through the issue to add to that after a few years.”

Miller played against the Wildcats when he was a point guard for Pittsburgh from 1988-92, losing here in 1988 and 1992 here.

“The home court here has an aura about it,” Miller said. “I remember playing here, and (former Wildcat) Sean Elliott having about seven dunks in a row. It was so loud in this building. That’s one thing I first thought about when I first met with (UA athletic director) Jim Livengood.”

Miller, 40, one of the nation’s top young coaches, will inherit a UA team that has gone to 25 straight NCAA tournaments – the nation’s longest active streak. He took Xavier to the Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 in the last two years.

He thanked Olson, who attended the news conference.

“I have the opportunity to coach at one of the nation’s premier schools,” Miller said. “That’s why I’m here. To build on Lute Olson’s legacy and get us through this transition period.”

Miller said he wasn’t sure if he said no or yes to the UA job Sunday night after meeting with Livengood and UA president Robert Shelton earlier in the day in New Mexico. On Monday morning, he decided to take the UA job after meeting with his athletic director at Xavier.

“I had to take a deep breath,” Miller said. “It wasn’t so much of me changing my mind, as it was making sure I would be ready to go when I showed up (at UA).”

Arizona junior forward Chase Budinger said he will enter the NBA draft early, and forward Jordan Hill could follow him along with guard Nic Wise.

Miller, with few West Coast ties, will have to hit the recruiting road quickly.

“We need to be patient and take the right players,” Miller said. “Also, a crucial thing is I need to get a good feel for the current team.

“There’s nothing more important than the players. If you treat them the right way, they’ll run through a wall for you.”

Miller was greeted enthusiastically by about 150 students at McKale Center as he arrived around 11 a.m.

He flew into town, landing at about 10:05, then was whisked by car to McKale, where he was to have a press conference at noon.

UA officials released a term sheet they are using as part of contract negotiations with Miller, but they do not have a draft. Some media reports put Miller’s contract at up to $18 million over seven years, with the $1 million signing bonus.

The contract must be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents.

Several reporters asked about the current financial crisis, where tuition is increasing and jobs being cut at Arizona. Livengood pointed out that Miller’s contract will not be funded by tuition dollars. The UA athletic department operates on its own.

Miller was an NCAA Tournament regular the past four years with Xavier. He will try to continue his streak next season with UA, which has gone to the tourney 25 straight times – the nation’s longest active streak.

After initially rejecting UA’s offer, Miller had a change of heart on Monday.

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