April 7, 2011
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller
What do you do next?
"With the success that we had this year, and in some ways a surprising way, the detriment of it, if there is one, is that sometimes you lose key people that are on our staff. We lost a terrific assistant coach, and I'm happy for him because I think the opportunity he has at Dayton, to be the head coach, especially at such a young age, is second to none. It's really a fantastic place and it's a great fit for Archie. It's bittersweet, because we lost somebody who was really involved in every facet of our program. You don't trust anybody more than you trust your own brother. The name of the game, so many times, is recruiting, and the comprehensive approach he had, as a coach, is what made him so valuable. He could really help during the games, he was a very good practice coach, had relationships with our players, and he could recruit. Moving forward, the biggest priority in our program is to hire somebody of his equal, and that could come from a lot of different areas, and different versions of experience. Because he left so quickly, and because of who he is in our program, I think it's very important that we hire someone who is equally comprehensive in their ability to contribute. Not just a recruiter, not just a coach, but someone who can blend all those qualities. I guess what I'm after is an excellent coach. As you can imagine, we have quite a bit of interest across the board in the job. The timing, it'll happen in May. I'm not in a big hurry, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can of who's out there, and at the same time, learn just what we need, even more than I already know. I imagine that will happen sometime in May, early or mid-May, and our priority right now is our own players and to finish out April recruiting."
More on losing his brother, Archie Miller, from the coaching staff:
"It's easy to say goodbye from the perspective that he's left to be a head coach and it's such a great opportunity. That's what this is about. In our conversations with our players, those guys, it hits them quickly, and hits them hard because it happened so quickly. When you have the success we had as a team, and the season we had, good things come in many forms, and this is one of them. I would say, looking back, that twenty-four months went by so fast, in many regards. We probably didn't have time to enjoy the fact that we are related. The bond came more in terms of trust and really locking arms to do as much as we can here at Arizona. Looking back, I really appreciated Arch coming here in the first place, because he didn't really take a step up. When you're at Ohio State, and when you're doing what he was doing, with what their program is, it's equal footing, and with him already being there didn't mean that he had to leave Ohio State. He did it because he wanted to help the cause, and obviously he respected Arizona a great deal. We appreciate his efforts, and he'll be missed. In a short period of time, hopefully we'll have someone who does the job very similar to him."
On their father's reaction to having both his sons as DI head coaches:
"He is very proud. It's a lot easier for him to watch us now, because he can get in the car and drive three hours. To come out here, he has to travel more. It's a lot warmer, a lot nicer, but it takes a while for him to get out here. He combines the best of both worlds when he needs to get out of the gloom and doom of winter in that area, to come out here to Tucson, and when he likes to not travel as far, he can go right over to Dayton."
On the Dayton/Xavier rivalry:
"It's about as nasty as a rivalry can be. Dayton has not beat Xavier at Xavier in I believe twenty-nine years, and yet they've been very similar. That's obviously going to be one of the things Arch will try to change, but two similar schools, two very proud traditions. You would be shocked at the attendance at both arenas. It's a rabid fan base and a great opportunity for anyone, especially somebody who is just becoming a head coach."
On looking for a new coach:
"Getting this right is way more important than anything else, because this person is going to impact our program for years to come in many ways. Their experience, whether they're coming from the NBA, or a head coach in college, an assistant coach in college, is crucial. I think the one thing we are really settled on is making sure that they have the ability to have relationships in the west. Now that we've been here for a couple years, I think that's what we're looking for. Doesn't necessarily have to be someone from the west, sometimes a person can be very national in their approach."
Have you taken a second to breathe and look back at this season?
"I really haven't. I wish I would have kept Archie, I think that's the one thing that's changed so quickly. We've gone from the end of our season, to almost the next thing right away, and instead of the next thing being able to take a deep breath, and do what everybody else is doing, recruiting and enjoying the fact that we're not practicing and playing. This transition here, you can imagine, the phone is ringing, that's a big priority for us. In time here, I'm sure that we all will take some time. The one thing I really enjoy is talking to our players right now. It's amazing that when you've experienced what they've experienced, and you taste the Final Four, and you're on that three or four week high that the NCAA Tournament can give you, and you're part of a Pac-10 Championship team, you'd be surprised at how eager and hungry all of our guys are to get back to that level. I think that they all understand how hard that is to do, but I think they also know how rewarding it is. When you have a program that's done it, how hard it is to do it again; it probably isn't from the perspective that you have a number of guys that have experienced it. They know what it takes, and it's easier to work out in the summer knowing what that prize is. You can really sense how motivated our team is to have a good spring and summer. Like we've talked about so many times, that was the key ingredient to this year's success: the off season we had a year ago. The other thing that makes it easier is the continuity. I know we lost an assistant coach, but our spring program is going to be very similar to last year. How our guys lift weights, the expectations, the familiarity, it only allows them to grow in a better way."
On being a three pointer away from the Final Four:
"That's the reality. We were right there, and I am very proud of it, no question. I think about how close we were every day. It really speaks volumes to the level UConn played at. One thing that's lost in their championship is that they won eleven games in, I believe, twenty-seven days. It's hard to win eleven in a row, in twenty-seven days, and then when you start naming the teams they beat, like the number one seed Pittsburgh, and you look at the way they won games, single possession games like ours, it's really a tribute to them."
How the improvement in the program is helping recruiting:
"We're not a program, right now, that we were a short time ago, that's trying to bring in ten players, eight players, seven players. Now it should really settle in. Our recruiting, for the most part for this year's class, is over. It's not as if we're rallying in to bring someone else in for the spring. Moving to the class of 2012, we've invested a lot of time, in what I consider the right players, the right prospects. We have one commitment, and really have two other's that we're trying to bring in. We're now able to work in a more responsible way. We're able to deal with younger players and people, and there's a lot more familiarity with Arizona now, with the new staff, than there ever was a year ago."
What positions the team is looking to fill:
"Certainly one other frontcourt player. Looking down the line that's one thing we really need. That third guy, I would say would probably be a forward or a wing. The most depth we have in the future, right now is at the guard positions."
On working out the scholarships:
"I'm very confident, that first of all, making decisions for the best interest of our program, that's my job. Building our program is part of it, but the other part is making sure the players, the student athletes, that are a part of our team can reach their goals. Everybody wants to play, everybody wants to play more. Sometime's it's hard to be honest, but sometimes it's the right thing. If they can leave here, to go somewhere else, to reach their goals, I think, at the end, maybe not right away, it will both help our program, but it will also really help them. We're still, obviously, working through Derrick's situation, and we have to get to that point before we really know what our team will look like next year."
On Derrick Williams' decision:
"Derrick's moving through it like I've anticipated him doing, and he's really relying on one of his coaches who is almost like a big brother to him. He has his mom, his sister, and he's listening to us. My role isn't to convince him to come back to Arizona, as much as it is to make sure we can provide them with all the information that they deserve. This years is unique because of the lockout, and there's not one person who can predict anything other than that there is a really good chance that there is going to be one. It can last anywhere from a month or two, best case scenario, to the entire season. You can talk in a day's time to five different people who have a lot of experience on different ends of the NBA, and you'll get five different answers. The one common theme is that they all anticipate some form of a lockout. That doesn't mean it's not right to go to the NBA, but you certainly have to take that into consideration. If you look at some of the players that have decided not to turn pro, to me that's a deciding factor as part of the equation for them. The thing about the NBA draft, and these experts, it's really hard for me to give them full credit for saying top-whatever when they don't know who's in the draft. What I think now, and in the future, what they can be as accurate as they possibly can is, do we think that one of our payers can be the top fourteen picks, do they think they'll be a first-round pick, maybe improbable that they'll be a lottery pick or a first-round pick. That's more of a realistic assessment now. You don't really know today. I hear, so-and-so's a number one pick, well, there are four players who haven't made their decision yet that can impact that. With Derrick, I think it's not about that. It's more about giving him the space and time. He's, thank god, not a guy that can't wait to leave Tucson. He loves college, he loves the fans, and he really enjoys playing as a part of our program. For that, to his credit, he's trying to make the best decision for him, and I would anticipate that that decision will be more toward the deadline of April 24 than it would be two days from now. I think he will be outstanding (if he goes). I don't know a lot about the NBA, but I do know a lot about Derrick, and I think he'll do a great job, mostly because he's a great kid and he will continue to improve like he has here."
Of Arizona's future success in the Pac-12, with how many other athletes from the conference have decided to go to the NBA:
"It really doesn't matter, because we can't control anything outside of our own program. One of the things I hope we get to the point to, and Derrick is really the first here, in my time, is, if a player leaves Arizona to be part of the NBA, that it was a decision that was well thought out, and that he listened to the right people, and he made the best decision for the future. If that means they leave, then that's great. What you don't want is for anyone to leave for the wrong reasons, and that is that they don't like it here, they're in a rush to be a part of the NBA, because, I think our goal is that you don't just jump into that NBA pool, so to speak, but you can swim in the deep end. That you're ready and that you understand what life is going to be like. You can be successful because, I think the one thing that is very obvious, is that it's not about getting there, but about the first two and three years, and what you do means so much more toward their long-term career goals. Part of what we're working with with Derrick, and what he and his family are sorting through, is that very thing. To make sure he is ready, because he is not leaving here for any reason that that. Thank goodness for Derrick that he is surrounded by great people. It's a big decision, and if you're not, it's not a pretty sight, and I think that's one of the things that's wrong with college basketball."
On Derrick being a finalist for the Wooden Award:
"Being an All American, in my mind, is a great honor. I think the designation of first or second team may be more opinion-driven. Being an All American is a lot about what you did, and to me, he deserves all those accolades for what he did on the season, even if the season ended before the NCAA Tournament. If you throw in both our team's performances and his, and like we know so well, the impact he had at those game winning moments, it's easy to point to him as being one of the best to play in college basketball."
On the outlook for next year's guard positions:
"We have to really take a look, once we know who exactly is on our team. What worked last year doesn't mean it's necessarily going to work this year. Derrick, with or without him, is a big way of looking at our team differently. There will be times next year that we'll have three guards on the court at the same time, and we never did that one time in the last two years. It's so much about putting the right players on the court and putting the best players on the court. I think that we have a lot of great combinations that we can use, to me, that will be really fun to watch when you have three ball handlers on the court, with two big guys. I also tell you that we can play a lot of different ways as well."
On where Jesse Perry will play next year if Derrick leaves:
"Not the five, but he played the four this year. He'll have a similar role, but I think Jesse will get a lot better this year. This season, he played between two hundred and two hundred and ten pounds. He's not going to play next year at two hundred to two hundred and ten pounds. I think he will be significantly bigger and stronger, and that will make him better."
On Kyryl Natyazhko stepping up next season:
"Hopefully Kyryl will build on his last six weeks of this season, and a lot of times those big guys make jumps between their sophomore and junior years, and hopefully he is one of those guys that will continue to improve. I don't think Kyryl is ever going to be a great scorer, but I know he can score better, and continue to contribute and be a better player. He's had two very good years of experience."
On how big of a loss Archie is in respect to his bond with the athletes:
"It's a loss, but James Whitford and Emanuel Richardson, the other two assistant coaches do a great job as well. One thing you want to do when you recruit is you want to do it as a staff. You don't want to just sic a coach on the family or a kid, you really want be able to show then who we are, and that's our philosophy. No matter who we've recruited, whether they're already coming here, or they're a younger person or player, they have more of a familiarity than just one coach, and that helps."
On taking a break now that the season has ended:
"I definitely have to stop. One of the things that's crazy is that the last twenty-four months flew by. I think it's amazing. Yesterday was April 6, and two weeks to that day is when we arrived in Tucson, and it just really flew by, and when you're in that mode of just getting here, you skip certain steps that other coaches do. This spring, it is important. If our staff was intact, that would make this a lot easier."
Have the goals changed for himself and the team since his arrival:
"No. Before I got here, the standards were set, and it's up to us to be able to meet those standards. You go to the Elite Eight, and you recognize that you're one of nine teams to go to the Elite Eight. I don't know how many programs can say that. If you think about the same thing, the Sweet Sixteens, or even the Pac-10 Championships, I think we were the twelfth Pac-10 Championship team. It's just amazing, the tradition that we have. Seasons like we had this year, to me, are season we're trying to have in our future. You can't always control what happens in the tournament. You run into the last-second shot, a bad play, good play, you look at so many of the number one seeds this year. They've had unbelievable seasons, and they get knocked out. Hopefully we can put ourselves in that kind of position in the future."
A reflection on the last two years:
"A lot has happened. It really has. There are different phases, but going from our first year, of sixteen wins to this past year of thirty, it's very fulfilling. Knowing how close we were to the Final Four, sometimes it's disappointing, but there has to be a lot of great things that happened to put our team in a position to get there, and we were right there. You look at our team, who we were in December of this year, and who we were in March, we really improved and got better, and hopefully that will be one of the signatures moving forward. You watch our team improve as the season goes on, and that's a great characteristic to have."
On the new recruits, academically:
"I don't really have any concerns. We've been on top of them from day one, all the way through. Sometimes if you switch schools, it's almost like `uhoh' but it's not about switching schools, it's a matter of them doing very well in school, regardless of where they're at. Making sure they take the proper courses, making sure that their test scores are right, but we're on top of them, and we anticipate all four players coming here."
On Solomon Hill's improvement:
"I think Solomon will really benefit a great deal by becoming a better shooter than he was this year. If you watched him play as a freshman and if you watched him play as a sophomore, like a lot of our players, he got better shooting the ball, and it made him a better player and made our team better. Him being able to make the same jump where he's an occasional three-point shooter, to someone who shoots a higher percentage from the line, shoots more threes, shoots as good or better of a percentage, I think will really help him. Solomon has a body that's big and strong. Making sure that he's as thin and slim, and making sure his body fat is as low as it can get, that's going to bring out the best in him. Nobody's had more experience in the conference in two years than Solomon. When you look at the number of minutes he's played, the game's he's started, and that experience is really going to help him. It's going to be beneficial to him as a junior."
On Jordin Mayes:
"Jordin was diagnosed with a stress fracture. When we found it, he complained about a little bit of foot pain, but he would have been able to play if we had gone to the Final Four. We would have shut him down right afterwards. In the next four to six weeks, he won't be in a boot the entire time, but that's why he has the boot on. It just started, so he's in good shape. He won't be a part of what we do here initially, just to make sure he's rested."
On the final round of "Shots from the Heart" free-throws:
"I haven't shot them yet, I'm due up. Maybe in the next day or two. It's going to be a big challenge."