Xavier's Miller accepts Arizona job
He said Monday he has accepted the job at the Pac-10 school and told his players Monday afternoon before making his decision public. He added that he met with Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski and informed the school he was leaving after five years.
Bobinski was confident Miller would continue to be his men's basketball coach as of late Sunday night, but he wasn't convinced enough to say it was a done deal or to stay in Detroit and serve in his role on the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Highest win percentages at Xavier
Sean Miller leaves the Musketeers program in good shape, having won 120 games and reaching the NCAA tournament in four of his five seasons as coach.
Bobinski headed back to Cincinnati to be in the office Monday because Miller was waffling. His concerns were well-founded: after sleeping on the offer from Arizona, Miller decided to take the job with the Wildcats at mid-day Monday. The news was first reported by Yahoo! Sports on Monday afternoon.
Miller and Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood met Sunday in Albuquerque, N.M. Miller asked to sleep on the offer. The Xavier official said that when Miller called back to Arizona on Monday, he was offered more money and the counteroffer was too good to pass up.
Miller wasn't the first choice for Livengood. Arizona tried in vain to convince Gonzaga's Mark Few, Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon and then-Memphis coach John Calipari (before he went to Kentucky) to take the job. Arizona even brought USC's Tim Floyd on campus for an interview and made an offer. None, however, took the job.
As a precaution while the Wildcats waited on Miller, they made inquiries to Utah's Jim Boylen, who had been an NBA assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks. Boylan had strong ties in recruiting in the West, had rebuilt Utah and was a former assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State.
Eventually, Arizona found a willing partner -- after much haggling -- in Miller.
Miller is leaving behind a top 25 team at Xavier, which went 27-8 overall and 12-4 in the Atlantic 10 this season. Xavier is a favorite to win the Atlantic 10 title next season and continue a run of NCAA tournament appearances. Miller had made the NCAA with Xavier four of the last five seasons, reaching the Elite Eight and Sweet 16. Xavier lost to Pitt last week in a Sweet 16 East regional game in Boston.
Miller is the latest Xavier coach to make it a stepping-stone job to a power-six conference. Thad Matta went to Ohio State, the late Skip Prosser went to Wake Forest and Pete Gillen went to Providence -- all directly from Xavier.
One of the reasons Arizona struggled to find a replacement, ultimately for Lute Olson, is because of the rebuilding job Arizona faces. A number of coaches told ESPN.com that if they didn't have to leave their current program, the money was comparable to what they were making, and they were winning, they didn't want to start over, even at a program with the name recognition of Arizona. The Wildcats (21-14, 9-9 in the Pac-10), who reached the Sweet 16 and lost to Louisville in Indianapolis under interim coach Russ Pennell, is expected to lose its top two players (and possibly three) in juniors Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise. The first two are locks for the first round of the NBA draft while Wise could try to play professionally instead of playing for his fourth coach in four years (Olson to interim coach Kevin O'Neill for the 2007-08 season to interim coach Pennell last season and then Miller).
The coaching carousel at Arizona has meant the Wildcats have missed out on two recruiting classes. Incoming recruit Brandon Jennings went to Europe, freshman Jeff Withey transferred to Kansas and top signee for next season, Abdul Gaddy, got out of commitment to go to rival Washington.
If Budinger, Hill and Wise leave, as expected, then the Wildcats will likely be picked to finish last in the Pac-10 next season. The top returning scorers for the Wildcats would be Jamelle Horne (6.8 ppg), Kyle Fogg (6.1 ppg) and Zane Johnson (4.6 ppg).
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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