As Sean Miller begins year four in Tucson, he does so knowing that his multifaceted approach to building a program has paid lasting dividends in the Southwest. These numbers certainly justify the thought:
His 69 wins in his first three years are more than any UA coach in history and more than any current Pac-12 coach in his first three years in the league. Arizona is averaging 23 wins per season under Miller, an improvement over the six seasons (21.7) prior to his arrival.
A 36-18 (.667) Pac-12 record in his first three seasons in the league. Not only does that record tie for the best in the Pac-12 in that span, but since the conference expanded to 10 teams back in 1978-79, Miller is one of only two coaches in that span to win 36 conference games in his first three years in the league, joining UCLA's Steve Lavin, who went 39-15 (.722) from 1996-99.
No Pac-12 team has more road wins in conference play (14) than UA since Miller took over.
Arizona has allowed fewer points per game in each of Sean Miller's first three seasons: 72.0 ppg in 2009-10, 67.9 ppg in 2010-11 and 62.7 ppg in 2011-12. UA has held opponents to less than 60 points 26 times in Miller's first three seasons.
Over the last two seasons, UA opponents have connected on less than 29 percent of its three-point FG attempts (345-of-1,194). Only one other team nationally can match that.
Arizona's climb back to the elite level of college basketball began April 7, 2009, when Sean Miller took over the reins of the esteemed program. In the time since that announcement, Miller has given the Wildcats the stability needed to move forward with confidence, the focus to improve each day and the guidance of a leader who has found success everywhere he's been.
From his first team meeting - featuring just six players - Miller's first 12 months were a whirlwind of activity as he worked tirelessly to rebuild from within. He quickly added eight players to solidify the roster and rebuilt a system in which defensive intensity and offensive cohesiveness form a relentless unit at both ends of the court.
Since then, consistent success has followed.
His 2011-12 team won 23 games and advanced to the postseason, collecting back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time within the program in five seasons. For the second straight season, UA finished in the top-five nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense and limited opponents to an average of 62.7 points per game in 35 outings, a figure that was the lowest scoring defense figure for the program since 1985-86. The Cats played in the Pac-12 tournament championship game for the second straight year and had a pair of all-conference performers.
The 2010-11 club won 30 games, captured the Pac-10 regular-season championship, advanced to the NCAA West Regional final and produced the No. 2 selection in the 2011 NBA Draft. Additionally, he re-established and strengthened recruiting ties that allowed the Cats to land a top-10 class in 2011, a top-three class in 2012 and build consistently elite ones in the future.
While those achievements are certainly worth noting, it's the beneath-the-surface facts that indicate that Miller and his charges might be on the verge of something special in the Old Pueblo.
In just one season under his guidance, the Wildcats showed vast improvements in all the things that championship clubs do so well: increased points per game, shooting percentages, rebounds, rebound margin and assists, and decreased points, shooting percentages, fewer rebounds and more turnovers out of the opposition. All of that culminated in a 30-8 overall record and the Pac-10 title, Miller's fourth league crown in the previous five seasons.
Such statistical improvements were mirrored individually too, as the 2010-11 Wildcats displayed more poise, were more fundamentally sound, and were stronger and more assertive on the court, a testament to Miller's total program development.
Nowhere was that individual development better displayed than with Derrick Williams. The 6-foot-8 forward blossomed into the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2010 and Pac-10 Player-of-the-Year and consensus All-America accolades in 2011. Williams went from the least heralded of Miller's initial five-man recruiting class to the second overall pick in the NBA Draft.
The college basketball world has begun to take notice as UA was ranked as high as No. 10 in both major college basketball polls in 2010-11 - a first for the program in four seasons - and Miller earned 2011 Pac-10 and NABC District 20 Coach-of-the-Year honors for his efforts.
Miller guided UA to a 16-15 record in 2009-10, making drastic improvements from start to finish, and, more importantly, putting into play his belief that there is no such thing as a quick fix. Hard work and a dedicated effort each day breeds success. His charges have honored that process each day since.
Prior to moving west, Miller, 44, completed five seasons as head coach at Xavier in 2008-09, and carries a career coaching record of 166-70 (.703) in seven seasons as a collegiate head coach to go with four conference regular-season championships, one postseason tournament title and two 30-win seasons.
While at XU, his clubs posted four consecutive 20-victory seasons and four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The Musketeers won three Atlantic-10 Conference regular-season championships and Miller guided two Xavier teams to the Sweet 16, in 2008 and 2009. He is the school's overall coaching leader in NCAA play with a 6-4 record in his share of Xavier's 20 tournament appearances.
Miller's 2008-09 club won the A-10 championship finishing with a 27-8 record. The Musketeers lost to No. 1-seed Pitt as the No. 4 seed in the East Regional in Boston. XU was ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll and was ranked steadily after Nov. 25, rising as high as No. 7 on Dec. 15 and holding a spot in the top 10 (ninth) on Feb. 2.
As a player, Miller participated in three NCAA Tournaments for Pittsburgh (1988, 1989 and 1991), coached in one as an assistant at Miami, Ohio, (1995) and in three as associate head coach at Xavier from 2002-04. His Xavier squad reached the Elite Eight in 2008.
Moreover, Miller's work with his student-athletes off the court paid outstanding dividends with 100 percent (24-of-24) of the basketball seniors who completed their eligibility since 1996 graduating. While a head coach, 16 Xavier players earned their degrees with an additional pair expected to do so in the near future. Since his arrival at Arizona, all eight of the Wildcats to complete eligibility under Miller have earned degrees as well.
His success with his student-athletes both on and off the court echoes the fact that Miller genuinely cares for their well being. That complete commitment to his charges is a strong indication of his character.
"It's easy to be a fan of Sean. I can't think of anyone in the profession who is more honest and more loyal. Sean is as good a person as there is in college basketball," said Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News.
He is Arizona's sixth appointed head coach in the last 87 years, dating to a 36-year run by Fred A. Enke from 1925 to 1961 and concluding with Lute Olson's remarkable stint from 1984 to 2007.
Miller's 30-7 record in 2007-08 set a Xavier record for victories in a season, and helped earn him Atlantic-10 Conference honors, along with his 14-2 record and second A-10 regular-season title. The National Association of Basketball Coaches named Miller its District 10 Coach of the Year and he was a finalist for a number of other national coaching honors.
His record at Xavier (120-47) ranks him third all time on the school's coaching chart behind Pete Gillen (202-75 from 1985-94) and the late Skip Prosser (148-65 from 1994-2001).
Xavier finished 25-9 overall in 2006-07, Miller's third year as the Xavier University head coach. XU won the 2007 Atlantic-10 Conference regular-season championship and advanced to the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Miller finished 21-11 in the 2005-06 season, winning the 2006 Atlantic-10 Championship and earning a berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Miller took over as head coach in 2004, replacing Thad Matta. He was Matta's right-hand man the previous three seasons as XU's first-ever associate head coach. Miller helped the Musketeers record three straight 26-victory seasons and three straight NCAA Tournament appearances that culminated in the 2004 Elite Eight run.
Miller began coaching at Xavier after stops at North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Miami (Ohio) and Wisconsin. He has coached for 16 teams that advanced to postseason play in his first 20 seasons as a head, assistant or associate head coach. That includes five NCAA Tournament berths in his eight years as a head coach, where his record stands at a solid 9-5 (.643) with two Elite Eight and one Sweet 16 appearance to his credit. Additionally, in 20 seasons as a head, associate or assistant coach, Miller's teams have produced 17 winning seasons and averaged better than 20 wins per year.
Considered Pittsburgh's best three-point shooter of all time, Miller was a Big East all-Rookie team pick in 1987-88. In his four-year career he helped lead the Panthers to three NCAA berths and an NIT appearance. He was No. 18 entering 2012-13 on Pitt's all-time scoring chart with 1,282 points, ranked 10th among career Division I free throw shooters at .885 and ranked third all-time in Big East career assists. He was 17th in three-point shooting on the Big East career chart.
He played on the United States' 1991 World University Games team that earned a gold medal after his final year at Pitt. He was named to the Pitt all-Centennial Team in 2005.
A native of Beaver Falls, Pa., Miller was born Nov. 17, 1968. He and his wife, Amy, have three sons, Austin, Cameron and Braden. He prepped at Blackhawk High School and earned his bachelor's degree in communications from Pittsburgh in 1992.
Miller was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Hall of Fame in June 2012.
Sean Miller's Year-By-Year Collegiate Coaching Record
School Year Record Pct. Conf. Finish Postseason
Xavier 2004-05 17-12 .586 10-6 T2nd --
Xavier 2005-06 21-11 .656 8-8 T7th NCAA Oakland Region 1st Round
Xavier 2006-07 25-9 .735 13-3 T1st NCAA South Region 2nd Round
Xavier 2007-08 30-7 .811 14-2 1st NCAA West Regional Final
Xavier 2008-09 27-8 .771 12-4 1st NCAA East Regional Semifinal
XU Totals (5 yrs.) 120-47 .719 57-23
Arizona 2009-pres. Three years, Head Coach
Xavier 2004-09 Five years, Head Coach
Xavier 2001-04 Three years, Associate Head Coach
N.C. State 1996-2001 Five years, Assistant Coach
Pittsburgh 1995-96 One year, Assistant Coach
Miami, Ohio 1993-95 Two years, Assistant Coach
Wisconsin 1992-93 One year, Assistant Coach
2007-08 Atlantic-10 Conference Coach of the Year
2007-08 NABC District 10 Coach of the Year
2010-11 Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year
2010-11 NABC District 20 Coach of the Year