Arizona fires head coach Sean Miller after 12 seasons

Sam Cooper
·3-min read

Sean Miller’s time at the University of Arizona has come to an end.

Arizona parted ways with Miller on Wednesday, a little more than a month following the conclusion of his 12th season leading the program.

Miller coached the Wildcats to seven NCAA tournaments, including three trips to the Elite Eight, but was recently hit with multiple NCAA violations in the aftermath of the infamous federal college basketball corruption case.

Miller had just one year remaining on his contract and with potentially significant NCAA penalties on the horizon, the Arizona administration opted to make a change.

"We appreciate Sean's commitment to our basketball program and to the university," said Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke. "After taking the many factors involved into account, we simply believe that we need a fresh start and now is the time. I want to thank Sean, Amy and their sons for their service to the university and wish them the very best in the future."

Jack Murphy, Arizona's associate head coach, will serve as the interim head coach. The school will honor the terms of Miller's contract and immediately begin a national search for his successor. 

Arizona received its NCAA Notice of Allegations in October, but did not release it until last month when a judge ruled that the university must make the document public. In the document, it was confirmed that Arizona’s men’s basketball program is facing four Level I violations, including the lack of institutional control and a head coach responsibility violation for Miller for the failure to “promote an atmosphere of compliance” and monitor his staff. 

Book Richardson, one of Miller’s former assistant coaches, pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in 2019. Richardson was accused of accepting $20,000 to direct Arizona players to sign with Christian Dawkins, an aspiring sports agent. During Dawkins' trial, a federal wiretap played a call between Richardson and Dawkins. During the call, Richardson said that Miller was paying $10,000 per month to DeAndre Ayton, who spent one season at Arizona before going No. 1 overall in the 2018 NBA draft. 

"After conferring with Dave Heeke since the season's end, it has become clear that our men's basketball program — and our university — needs to write a new chapter in our history, and that begins with a change of leadership," said Arizona president Robert C. Robbins. "Arizona Basketball means so much to so many and, as stewards of the program, we must always act in the best interests of the university. I believe our future is bright, and I look forward to welcoming a new head coach to the Wildcat family."

Arizona head coach Sean Miller waves after a win over Southern California during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Arizona head coach Sean Miller waves after a win over Southern California during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

NCAA tournament trips in 7 of Miller's first 9 seasons

Miller arrived at Arizona in 2009 after five years as the head coach at Xavier. Miller coached the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in his second season on the job. In Year 4, UA reached the Sweet 16 before back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 2014 and 2015.

Arizona lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2016, lost in the Sweet 16 in 2017 and had another first-round exit in 2018. Arizona missed the postseason in 2019 and self-imposed a postseason ban this season with its NCAA case lingering.

Overall, Miller won five Pac-12 regular-season titles and three Pac-12 tournaments while accumulating a 302-109 overall record during his time in Tucson.

At Xavier, Miller went to four NCAA tournaments with an Elite Eight appearance in 2008 and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2009. Miller was an assistant at Xavier before he was promoted to head coach. He also had stints as an assistant at Miami (Ohio), Pittsburgh and N.C. State. His brother, Archie, was the head coach at Dayton and Indiana. Indiana fired Archie Miller on March 15. 

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