DAN BICKLEY

Wildcats head coach Sean Miller not worth the trouble for Arizona

Mar 9, 2021, 12:55 PM | Updated: 9:01 pm
Arizona head coach Sean Miller questions a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketbal...

Arizona head coach Sean Miller questions a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

(AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

Words can get you fired in 2021. So why does Sean Miller still have a job?

His basketball program has stained and embarrassed the University of Arizona. Major sanctions are looming, based on allegations that Miller bribed, broke rules and cheated to win. Even worse, he’s not even good at the under-the-table shenanigans.

At age 52, he has more wiretap appearances than Final Four appearances.

An FBI sting snagged one of his top assistants. The university banned itself from all postseason tournaments in 2021, a clear admission of guilt and a clear request for leniency. And yet Miller remains employed. Even when there’s no payoff accompanying his alleged payoffs.

On Monday, school president Robert Robbins seemed to throw his support behind Miller, saying his head coach was already working on next year’s recruiting.

Strange, no?

Part of this is brazen revolt among the accused. Top basketball schools are tired of the NCAA’s hypocrisy, a governing body that fully participates in the con and the grift of college basketball while also serving as clucking judge and jury to those caught in the web. Dirty programs are not even pretending to feel ashamed.

There’s a reason why Kansas and Bill Self have mocked the NCAA in outward displays of rebellion. Same with Arizona’s loyalty to Miller. The blueblood programs understand they have the real power in college basketball. They create the pipelines that draw top-flight talent to the world of academia. The NCAA is a toothless fraud that delivers very little to the bottom line.

There’s also a growing belief that paying recruits is a victimless crime. That’s mostly true. Most sports fans have come to embrace the plight of the transcendent college athletes, the ones who create so much money for everyone but themselves.

It’s also false. There are real victims. The victims are the schools that don’t have a supply chain of money from well-heeled boosters willing to ditch the moral compasses.

To wit: A Georgia high school football coach just claimed Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Alabama’s Nick Saban pay top dollar for incoming recruits, coaches disproportionately funded by alumni who care a little too much.

In Tucson, there is also a distinct fear of life after Miller. A fear that losing the sweaty bully will further loosen their grip on relevancy, maybe even for good.

Arizona’s basketball program is a national phenomenon. It was built by the late, great Lute Olson, a coaching titan who built a kingdom in the desert, who once turned down a job offer at Kentucky. There was a hope that the program would run on autopilot once Olson was no longer calling the shots. That dream died quickly with Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell.

Miller has produced NBA draft picks without much player development. The rawness of Deandre Ayton is alarming, a stark contrast to Devin Booker when he came out Kentucky as a bench player. Consecutive Elite Eight losses to Wisconsin and that punch in the gut from Buffalo speak to his in-game blind spots. He does very little to make friends and influence people. He’s very good at insulting media members who would drive 90 minutes to cover his program.

He’s not worth all this trouble. But he’s still the head coach because he’s still a quality recruiter. And because, in Tucson, they’ve grown very afraid of the alternative.

Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Minnesota Vikings during the seco...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals catch a break, protect home turf behind Kyler Murray

In the NFL, there is a fine line between victory and vilification. The Cardinals ended up on the right side of the ledger on Sunday.
1 day ago
The Arizona Cardinals run onto the field for the NFL game against the New England Patriots at the U...
Dan Bickley

Will Red Sea reignite as fans sell out Cardinals’ home opener?

State Farm Stadium was eerily quiet in 2020, when a pandemic interrupted a streak of 144 consecutive sellouts. A new era begins Sunday.
5 days ago
Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates after teammate Corey Peters, third from l...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals deliver early on promise to bring more physicality in 2021

It’s only 1,600 miles to Nashville. But few NFL teams covered more ground than the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 1 victory.
7 days ago
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) scrambles away from Tennessee Titans free safety Kev...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals’ beatdown of Titans felt like a preview of destruction

Greatness doesn’t wait or whisper. It declares itself loudly. Just like the Cardinals’ 38-13 win over the Titans on Sunday. Overreaction?
9 days ago
In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, a man walks by as betting odds for NFL football's Super Bowl 55 a...
Dan Bickley

Arizona enters new era of sports with legalized sports gambling

Dan Bickley examines what the arrival of legal sports gambling in Arizona means for the sports scene in the state and country going forward.
12 days ago
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals stands on the sidelines during the second half...
Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals’ 2021 roadmap to success littered with uncertainty

The Arizona Cardinals are a volatile stock in 2021. Some forecast disaster. Others see potential for greatness.
14 days ago
Wildcats head coach Sean Miller not worth the trouble for Arizona