The Pac-10 postseason awards will be announced Monday, with Arizona sophomore Derrick Williams likely to be selected the league’s player of the year.
A question more open for debate is this: Is Arizona’s Sean Miller the conference Coach of the Year?
On Saturday, Jason King of Yahoo! Sports revealed the website’s version of its All-Pac-10 team, and selected Cal’s Mike Montgomery as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
This launched a Twitter debate between Javier Morales of TucsonCitizen.com, John Schuster from the 1290-AM pre- and post-game basketball show and myself. I commented that Montgomery was “not a bad choice.”
The other two scoffed, harrumphed and made up mocking hashtags.
Like I said, not a bad choice. But I had to clarify. Not the right choice, just not a bad one.
But plenty of others really do think Monty is the right choice.
Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic, holding an online Pac-10 writers’ roundtable, asked four others who they would select as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. Among that group of five, four picked Montgomery. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times went with Miller.
Hmmm. You know the way these things work.
Picking the coach of the year in any sport is often a loose mathematical equation between preseason expectations and the team’s actual finish. Which assumes that everyone knew what the heck they were talking before the games began.
Cal was picked seventh in the preseason media poll. It finished tied for fourth with a 10-8 record. Not bad. In that sense, Oregon’s Dana Altman is just as deserving. Picked to finish last, Oregon tied for seventh at 7-11. No way anybody saw the Ducks winning seven conference games. Bravo for Altman.
But there is no need to make this overly complicated.
Miller won the Pac-10 title in his second season at Arizona, and there was no auto-pilot when he took over. This has been all unpaved road, uphill. Miller has had to get out and push along the way, putting his back into it.
He can’t take all the credit for how Williams turned out, but how about everything else? The entirety of what Miller has accomplished since the end of last season makes him the deserved winner of the Pac-10 Coach of the Year award.
He convinced his players to have what he called fabulous spring workouts. He kept everyone around in the summer, working together, working his plan.
He challenged Jamelle Horne to be a better teammate, coaxing a solid, no-drama season from his only senior. He successfully managed a 10, 11-man rotation, getting guys to accept roles. He helped MoMo Jones transition to becoming an effective (if not a classic) point guard. He brought in a top five recruiting class.
He won the Pac-10.
And, if you’re going to play the expectations game, don’t forget that Miller’s team, too, exceeded those expectations. Yes, Arizona was second in the preseason poll, but just barely ahead of third-place UCLA. Both teams were staring across a Grand Canyon-sized gap at No. 1 Washington.
Only one of 35 voters in the preseason media poll picked Arizona first … so this title did pretty much come of the blue.
By any measure, Miller should be Pac-10 Coach of the Year.