Sean Miller knows how to psychologically get the most out of his young playersby Javier Morales on Feb. 14, 2011, under Sports
Second-year Arizona coach Sean Miller sure knows how to be good cop, bad cop with his relatively young team.
You know that old saying of “Never let ‘em see you sweat”. Some times, including after a victory, Miller makes it a point to never let them — his players — see him smile.
Miller combines those two traits of being a confident coach and disciplinarian as well as anybody in his profession. He’s effective getting his point across at age 42. How much respect will he command when he becomes grizzled with gray hair?
The 15th-ranked Wildcats just won their sixth consecutive game, beating arch-rival ASU 67-52 in Tempe, when KCUB (1290-AM) play-by-play man Brian Jeffries asked Miller for his opinion about the game.
“We’re 21-4 and we’re thrilled to be there,” Miller told Jeffries, “but we walk a fine line.”
“Maturity,” Miller continued, “for our team is not easily solved. We screwed around. (Sophomore forward) Derrick Williams had no fouls at halftime but then he fouls out in the second half. … Why?
“Effort and concentration (or lack thereof).”
Miller was not finished.
“It’s not necessarily great talent that has us 21-4. … It’s togetherness. It’s a battle for us to play for 40 minutes and be mature and take care of things. I know we can.”
Imagine if Arizona lost.
The target of Miller’s frustration was Williams, who finished with a season-low 11 points and pulled down only five rebounds in 29 minutes. Miller sat Williams when the potential All-American committed his fourth foul with 5:03 left and Arizona leading 57-41. Miller was far from passive toward Williams, even though the UA was in command. He showed his displeasure when Williams went to the bench.
Miller had a similar look when he disciplined a certain player against Santa Clara early this season. That player: Kyle Fogg, who rescued the Wildcats with 26 points against ASU.
Fogg gave up on a play after committing a turnover in the first half against Santa Clara on Nov. 26. Miller sat Fogg the rest of the game and threatened him with more time on the bench unless the junior guard put forth more effort.
Rather than sulk, and complain that the head coach was acting unfair, Fogg worked hard to get into Miller’s good graces.
“I give Kyle Fogg a lot of credit,” Miller told a group of media after Sunday’s game at ASU. “He’s done everything that I have asked and our staff has asked of him. He’s become such a good defender, it was great to see him have a big night from three, because he has worked hard all week to make that happen.”
Miller told Jeffries that Fogg worked “seven straight days on his shot. He came in after practice and worked before practices.”
That discipline not only comes from Fogg’s self-motivation but also his understanding that in order play significant minutes in Miller’s rotation, he must start to produce on the offensive end. Entering the game, Fogg attempted the most three-pointers (86) but had the worst percentage (30.2) among Miller’s 10 most often used players.
Against ASU, he was 6 of 9 from three-point range. If he shoots his season percentage and makes only two or three, that would be nine to 12 less points for Arizona and keep the Sun Devils within striking distance.
A couple of three-pointers by Fogg were a result of Lamont “MoMo” Jones‘ six assists. Jones only scored two points on a couple of free throws after producing 27 points in the three-overtime thriller over Cal last week. Despite the lack of scoring, and shooting 0-for-6 from the field, Jones continued to play within the framework of Miller’s offense.
He did not force anything (with only three turnovers in 27 minutes).
Jones’ performance was enough to make Miller smile, whether that smile can be seen or not.