Arizona Hires Sean Miller As Head Basketball Coach
Sean Miller has been named to take the reins of The University of Arizona's heralded men's basketball program.

Johnny Cruz
April 6, 2009

Sean Miller has been named to take over the reins of The University of Arizona's heralded men's basketball program, athletics director Jim Livengood announced today. He will be introduced Tuesday in Tucson at a noon news conference.

Miller, 40, completed five seasons as head coach at Xavier with his fourth consecutive 20-victory season and fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance last month.

Miller succeeds Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Lute Olson, who retired last fall, and his interim replacement, Russ Pennell, who continued Arizona's streak of consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament with the programs' 25th in 2008-09. The first 23 of those came under Olson and the 24th under 2007-08 interim coach Kevin O'Neill.

His clubs won the last three Atlantic-10 Conference regular-season championships and he carries a career head coaching record of 120-47, a superlative .718 winning percentage. He took 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 the day before the UA's season ended in its Sweet 16 appearance in the Midwest at Indianapolis. 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 (9th) on Feb. 2.

"During the last three days I have gone through a difficult decision making process. I love Xavier University. Mike Bobinski, our director of athletics, has become a close friend of mine and my players are like a part of my family. These factors make it hard for me even considering leaving Xavier," Miller said.

"However, I believe I have the opportunity of a lifetime to become the head basketball coach at The University of Arizona. A place that has competed for a national championship for more than two decades. To be in charge of a new era of Arizona Basketball and to build this program towards winning a national championship again is where my heart is. I look forward to this new day in my family's life in Tucson, Ariz." 

As a player Miller participated in three NCAA Tournaments for Pittsburgh (1988, 1989 and 1991), coached in one as an assistant at Miami of Ohio (1995) and in three as associate head coach at Xavier from 2002-04. He is a member of the Pitt all-Centennial Team and a former all-Big East honoree. His Xavier squad reached the Elite Eight in 2008.

Moreover, Miller's work with his student-athletes off the court has paid outstanding dividends with 100 percent of the basketball seniors who completed their eligibility since 1986 graduating. While a head coach, 13 Xavier players have earned their degrees with an additional pair expected to do so in the near future.  

"I'm very pleased the coaching-search process has been completed with the hiring of Sean," Livengood said. "It's been an exhaustive week, but it's a good day to be a Wildcat. We believe we've brought in the best young coach in the country, a proven winner who will take this program into the future," he said."

"Sean Miller is a perfect fit for The University of Arizona," said UA President Robert N. Shelton. "Sean has had tremendous achievements on the court, but he has also done an extraordinary job of ensuring that his players succeed in the classroom. Arizona fans are going to be very proud of the way he approaches the game. He is absolutely the right person to lead our program forward," Shelton said.

Livengood said details of Miller's contract will be available at the news conference Tuesday. His appointment and the contract are subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents.

He becomes Arizona's fourth appointed head coach in the last 36 years dating to a 10-year run by Fred Snowden from 1973 to 1982, one year by Ben Lindsey and Olson's remarkable run from 1984 to 2007. Olson took a leave of absence in 2007-08 resulting in then-assistant O'Neill leading the program. Olson returned in the offseason, and announced his retirement shortly before the season began last fall.

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 overall record (120-47) ranks him third all time on Xavier's coaching chart behind Pete Gillen (202-75 from 1985 to 1994) and the late Skip Prosser (148-65 from 1994 to 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 on 14 teams that advanced to postseason play in his first 17 seasons as a head coach, assistant or associate head coach. That includes seven NCAA Tournaments in his eight years at Xavier.

The Xavier stint as assistant and head coach helped that school parallel Arizona's mark for the past 10 years. Under Olson, O'Neill and Pennell, Arizona posted a 259-105 record (.712) since 1999. The Musketeers, after their string of plus-25 victory years, posted a 265-101 (.724) record in that span. They've also kept pace in 20-victory seasons in the past 25 years, with 21 to Arizona's 23, both ranking in the nation's top 10 behind leader Kansas (25).

Xavier's scheduling has been as tough as any nationally prominent program during Miller's head coaching tenure. The slate this year included Duke, Virginia and Virginia Tech from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Missouri from the Big 12, USC, Cincinnati from the Big East, Auburn and LSU from the Southeastern Conference, Memphis from Conference USA and Butler of the Horizon League.

In this year's NCAA Tournament, his Musketeers beat Portland State and Wisconsin, and they finished the season with a five-point loss to his former school, Pitt, in the Sweet 16.

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. 16 entering this past season 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 seventh 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 Pittsburgh, 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.

Pending formal approval of the Arizona Board of Regents, Miller's contract will be paid with athletic department self-generated funds. The UA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is a financially self-supporting unit of the university. None of the monies for Miller's contract will come from tuition or state appropriations.

Since 2004, the athletics department has been one of a very few in the country to operate without university subsidy. It receives no tuition or state-appropriated dollars to support its operations. Instead, it contributes critical funds back to the University and serves as an economic engine within the Tucson community.

The department's current operating budget of $43 million is supported entirely by ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, broadcast royalties, private donations, Pac-10 Conference support and merchandising revenue.

In 2008 the department provided $350,000 worth of student employment, gave $325,000 in trademark and licensing fees to UA Student Unions, donated more than 2,000 items to local charities for fund-raising activities and had an estimated $50 million economic impact on the surrounding community.