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Did Arizona’s Sean Miller say goodbye after last game of the season at McKale Center?

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Has Arizona head coach Sean Miller coached his final home game at the McKale Center?

Following a loss to in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the embattled Arizona coach addressed the home crowd during a Senior Day speech. And from the emotion and tone of the speech, Miller sounds like he might have coached his final home game as Arizona’s head coach.

Speculation has been rampant as to what Miller’s future might entail — especially now that he’s been subpoenaed as part of the latest FBI case against college basketball corruption. And this isn’t a typical speech for a returning head coach to give.

“There’s no place that’s more magical than McKale Center, there’s no fans in the world that are more loyal… And it has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center the last 10 years. Thank you for everything,” Miller said to the crowd while choking up along the way.

When Miller was later asked about the context of his remarks to the McKale Center crowd in his postgame press conference, he declined to give a comment — raising further questions about his future.

Arizona still has to play in the upcoming Pac-12 tournament, but it’s been a trying season for the program and Miller. It’ll be fascinating to see if Miller makes any more comments about his future within the next week. For now, all of this is merely speculation.

Arizona initiates process to terminate assistant coach Mark Phelps

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The University of Arizona has placed assistant coach Mark Phelps placed on administrative leave as the school has initiated the process to terminate him. Phelps, in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Wildcats under head coach Sean Miller, was the longest-tenured assistant on Arizona’s staff.

According to a report by Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, Phelps was involved in placing a former Arizona commit into an online course. The probable termination of Phelps could also be a troubling sign for Miller, as the coach could be apart of a high-profile trial, while the NCAA is also reportedly starting to ask questions. This could be a move by Arizona to begin building its case to move on from Miller.

The school gave the following statement about Phelps to Jason Scheer of Wildcat Authority.

University of Arizona Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Phelps was placed on administrative leave on February 5, 2019 based upon an unresolved NCAA matter. Coach Phelps has performed his duties in strict compliance with NCAA and University policies. In correspondence dated January 22, 2019, Counsel for Coach Phelps was advised of the following by the NCAA Director of Enforcement: “At this point, the enforcement staff has made no determinations regarding potential violations involving Coach Phelps as we are still in the process of collecting information and conducting interviews.”

The 53-year-old Phelps has Division I experience as both a head coach (Drake) and a high-level assistant coach (Arizona, Arizona State, Marquette, Missouri) as he’s been a key staff member for Arizona. Now that Phelps has been placed on leave, Miller is without any of the assistant coaches who helped him through most of the past few years. Emanuel “Book” Richardson has been involved in the FBI scandal and recently took a felony plea while Joe Pasternack was hired as head coach at UC Santa Barbara.

Without any of his former assistants on staff with him, it’ll be even easier for Arizona to potentially clean house if they decide to move on from Miller. It seems like daily developments are starting to happen with this, as a resolution to everything could happen soon.

Arizona’s Sean Miller not discussing latest reports about program or future

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Arizona head coach Sean Miller is declining to comment on recent reports about the program or his future. On Monday, Yahoo Sports reported that Arizona and Miller could be heavily featured in the latest Christian Dawkins trial in April.

That same Yahoo report states Arizona is one of the schools where a formal NCAA inquiry has begun and Miller could also be subpoenaed to appear at the trial — potentially within the next month. There’s potential that Miller, and/or former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson are captured in wiretap discussions with Dawkins that could be played at trial.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Miller said Tuesday when asked about the Yahoo report.

Miller was also asked about daily distractions earlier in the day during a Pac-12 media conference call where he elaborated a little bit about some of the reports without directly commenting.

“You do the best that you can,” Miller said on the call. “Your priority is the day’s practice. Your priority is certainly the players that you have on your team. You get your guys revved up to be the best they can be every day.”

With Richardson recently taking a felony plea in federal court, there is already some major question marks with how the NCAA might handle Arizona. Since so much potential information might still come out in court, it might even be too early to tell everything that is to come.

But, regardless of Miller’s future, he continues to get into tons of headlines and media reports regarding his involvement in this case. Nothing has been directly tied to Miller that would make him sweat his job, but things are starting to pile up, and now there is the looming threat of this Dawkins trial and the NCAA’s involvement.

Arizona currently sits in the middle of a mediocre Pac-12 at 14-8 and 5-4 in the conference. Although the Wildcats are doing everything they can just to make the 2019 NCAA tournament, they do have the No. 1 recruiting class coming in for next season — which is also something to monitor if anything changes with this situation.

(H/t: Jason Scheer: Wildcat Authority)

Arizona secures commitment from top-60 2019 wing

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Arizona landed another quality commitment on Wednesday night as Class of 2019 wing Terry Armstrong committed to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-6 Armstrong is originally from Michigan, but he’s completing his prep career in Arizona this season at Bella Vista Prep. A lethal scorer with The Family in the Nike EYBL this spring, Armstrong was one of the top 10 scorers in the league as he put up 20.4 points per game on 49 percent shooting and 35 percent three-point range.

Armstrong is the third best commitment out of four for Arizona in the Class of 2019, as he joins the five-star backcourt of Nico Mannion and Josh Green along with three-star big man Christian Koloko.

Considering the position that Arizona was in as recently as this past March, and this has been a miraculous turnaround for head coach Sean Miller and his staff. Even though Arizona has been linked on multiple occasions to the FBI’s college basketball corruption scandal — with an upcoming trial that includes former assistant coach Book Richardson — they’re still bringing in high-quality commitments to Tucson for the future.

The perimeter trio of Mannion, Green and Armstrong has the potential to be a really strong class, especially when it comes to adding perimeter firepower. Arizona now finds itself back where it used to be in the recruiting landscape. They’re armed with multiple five-star commitments and a likely top-10 class.

The Wildcats also still have a chance to land one more quality big man as they’re in the mix for a number of quality forwards. If Arizona puts together a top-10 recruiting class composed of five players then it will be a minimal drop-off for a program that once faced a lot of adversity in keeping recruits.

It’s still a long time until this Class of 2019 group hits campus. But it’s a group worth thinking about when it comes to Arizona’s big-picture future.

 

Arizona’s Sean Miller releases statement addressing corruption scandal

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It’s been a week since the news of federal corruption charges upended the college basketball world. Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose staffer member Emanuel “Book” Richardson was arrested as part of the probe, finally has publicly addressed the situation, through a written statement.

“I was devastated to learn last week of the allegations made against Emanuel Richardson,” Miller said in a statement released by the school. “I have expressed to both (Arizona president) Dr. (Robert) Robbins and our athletic director Dave Heeke that I fully support the university’s efforts to fully investigate these allegations. As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, I recognize my responsibility to not only establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance.

“To the best of my ability, I have worked to demonstrate this over the past eight years and will continue to do so as we move forward.”

Richardson, who had been at Arizona since 2009, was immediately suspended while Arizona “initiated the dismissal process” after he was charged last week as part of the corruption investigation by the FBI that resulted in the immediate arrest of 10 people, including three other NCAA men’s basketball assistant coaches. Legendary coach Rick Pitino was fired last week by Louisville as part of the fallout of the wide-ranging scandal.

Miller had not publicly commented on the arrest or investigation until the release of the statement Tuesday evening.

Update:

Later Tuesday night Arizona’s athletic director and president both released statements in support of Miller.

President Dr. Robert Robbins, in part:

“Head coach Sean Miller has not been charged with — nor accused of — any misconduct and he has been fully cooperative and supportive of our efforts to determine the facts in pursuit of the truth. In a message that he shared with the community earlier today, Sean expressed his own devastation at the revelations last week and acknowledged his responsibility as the head coach to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance. Based on the facts that we know at this time, we support Coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations. The tremendous young men in our basketball program deserve our continued support as they work towards the start of the season, and I have complete faith that our passionate fans will continue to show them our love.”

Athletic director Dave Heeke said, “As the leader of the department of athletics, I expect all our student-athletes, coaches and staff to act with integrity and character, and I promise that I, along with our staff, will work tirelessly to ensure this department operates with the highest of ethical standards.

“With basketball practice underway, I ask that you join me in supporting Sean Miller, the staff, and our student-athletes as they work towards the start of the season.”

Five-star point guard picks Arizona

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Arizona just landed the first five-star of its 2018 class and its potential starting point guard for that season.

Brandon Williams, a top-20 recruit, chose the Wildcats on Tuesday over the likes of Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas and USC.

The 6-foot-1 Los Angeles-area native missed much of his junior season after a knee injury required surgery. He’s optimistic, though, that he’ll return to the court this summer and have a full year to prepare before starting his tenure in the collegiate ranks.

Williams will be arriving on campus as current starter Parker Jackson-Cartwright exhausts his eligibility, meaning the Wildcats will an opportunity for Williams to step right in on Day 1.

Arizona previously received a commitment from four-star forward Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA legend Shaquille, in its 2018 class. Five-star wing Emmanuel Akot was slated to be part of this Wildcat group, but he re-classed to 2017 in order to join Arizona for this season.

Beyond any joy that comes with landing a five-star recruit, Arizona fans are likely breathing even easier regarding Sean Miller’s potential interest in the Ohio State opening. Miller leaving Arizona, a potential preseason No. 1 team, to take the recently vacated Buckeyes job seemed unlikely immediately after the announcement that Thad Matta would not be retained, but getting a 2018 commitment the caliber of Williams the following day seems to be a pretty strong indicator that the conventional wisdom regarding Miller and the Buckeyes is probably close to being on the money.