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Citizen Staff Writer
‘I want a guy who can start his own legacy and own era.’ – SEAN ELLIOTT, ex-UA star, about Sean Miller, 40



Sean Elliott, Arizona’s all-time top basketball player, likes that Arizona’s next coach is young, energetic and a winner.

“Frankly, I wanted a younger guy who is up and coming and hungry,” Elliott said of UA’s hire of Xavier coach Sean Miller.

“I want a guy who can start his own legacy and own era; someone who can take the program to another level. He’s the right type of guy to do that.”

Miller, 40, 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 intially saying no to UA’s offer, Miller had a change of heart on Monday.

“During the last three days I have gone through a difficult decision-making process,” Miller said through UA. “I love Xavier. (Athletic director) Mike Bobinski has become a close friend of mine, and my players are like a part of my family. . . .”

“However, I believe I have the opportunity of a lifetime (at UA). It’s a school that has competed for a national championship for more than two decades. To be in charge of a new era of Arizona basketball, and to build the program toward winning a national title again, is where my heart is now. I look forward to this new step in my family’s life in Tucson.”

Miller reportedly will make $18 million over seven years at UA. At Xavier, Miller was making about $1 million per year on a deal that runs through 2108, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Former UA player Pete Williams, the first recruit for Lute Olson when he came to UA in 1983, said Miller, a University of Pittsburgh graduate, will “definitely be in rebuild mode.”

“He’ll have his hands full,” Williams said, because UA juniors Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise could all declare early for the NBA draft.

“I’m thrilled,” Williams said. “I like what he did at Xavier. I think he’s a great coach. I’m pleased the way it worked out.”

Miller said one of the reasons he decided to take the UA job, after first deciding against it, was because it was a chance at winning a national title, something Olson did in 1997.

“I would never leave Xavier unless it was a place where I really felt you could win a national championship,” Miller said Monday at a news conference in Cincinnati. “When I say that, it does not mean you can’t win one here. (UA) is a place that has done it before, and has had a quarter of a century worth of excellence.”

Arizona officials said they would introduce Miller at a news conference at noon Tuesday at McKale Center.

“If you watch and look at Arizona, you see they have done some amazing things in 25 years under one coach,” Miller said about Olson, who retired before the season started.

Hill said Miller’s hiring won’t affect his decision on the NBA draft either way.

Budinger’s father, Duncan, did not return a phone message. Wise could not be reached for comment.

“Wow,” Hill said when told Miller took the job.

That seemed to be the word of the day given the circumstances. On Sunday night, reports had Miller deciding to stay at Xavier, spurning UA’s offer. But overnight, Miller changed his mind.

“YES!!!!,” UA athletic director Jim Livengood said in a text message to the Citizen.

Arizona had finally gotten its coach in a week Livengood said was “exhaustive” after USC coach Tim Floyd rejected a UA offer last week.

“We believe we’ve brought in the best young coach in the country, a proven winner who will take this program into the future,” Livengood said in a release.

Elliott said he had hoped UA would go with a younger coach, mentioning Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel and Miller.

“The program the last 25 years speaks for itself and to continue that tradition you need to get somebody with quality,” Elliott said.

“Nowadays you need somebody who is younger, who can recruit and communicate and get in touch with the younger generation of kids, getting quality players.

“Not that we haven’t had that, but get this program back to the same place it was.”

Matt Othick, who was part of UA’s backcourt in the early 1990s, remembers Miller well. UA played Pittsburgh three times. Miller did not play in one of those games because of an injury.

“I’m very excited about the hire,” Othick said. “We played against Sean in our building. I went head to head with him and have a lot of respect for his game and his coaching ability.”

Othick said Miller’s “up-tempo style and hard-nosed defense is a perfect fit for Arizona.”

Former player Matt Muehlebach called it “a great hire.” Muehlebach, a local attorney, said Miller gives the impression that he’s smart and level-headed.

“He just seems to have a great command,” Muehlebach said. “Anyone who can start as a freshman at Pitt – and it wasn’t like those teams weren’t any good – those are the guys who have my respect. In order to do that, he had to be tough.”

Miller showed a softer side Monday, near tears when he announced his decision at a Xavier news conference. He made sure he left the right way.

“I cannot say enough good things about this place. It defines who I am to a large degree,” Miller said.

Xavier AD Mike Bobinski said he respected Miller’s decision, but “that doesn’t make me any less disappointed.”

Bobinski said coaches moving from job to job is simply a fact of life.

“If you’ve got coaches that other people aren’t interested in, you’ve got the wrong coaches,” he said. “The reason our coaches are in demand is we’re killin’ it.”

Former USC coach George Raveling called it a “great hire” for Arizona.

“He’s one of the bright young coaches in college basketball,” Raveling said. “If you polled 100 coaches today, you’d get 90 who would say he’s one of the real bright ones.”

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