LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats signals his players as they take on the Santa Clara Broncos during the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational at The Orleans Arena November 26 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. Arizona won 82-59. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Sean Miller saved Arizona Wildcats basketball. Now, he has the future looking as bright as it ever has in Tucson.
There were understandable questions and doubts presented when the University of Arizona hired Sean Miller to become the new head basketball coach in April of 2009. While his accomplishments and accolades at Xavier spoke for themselves, Miller had never taken over a high-major program in his career.
Would he be able to hang with the big boys both on the court and on the recruiting trails? How would Arizona's loyal and boisterous crowd react to a coach who had spent the first 40 years of his life on the east coast? Would a coach with no west coast recruiting ties be able to lure players to Tucson to help an ailing program?
Two and a half years later, Miller has answered a resounding 'yes' to each of those questions. He has blown everyone's expectations and the Wildcats are well on their way to achieving blue blood status once and for all.
UA fans first caught a glimpse of their new coach's ability as he compiled a top-15 recruiting class in the span of about 30 days. While none of them were high-profile recruits, Solomon Hill, Lamont "MoMo" Jones, Kyryl Natyazhko, Kevin Parrom, and, most notably, Derrick Williams all gave the commitment to become Wildcats. It was a blind leap of faith into a program that had struggled to keep it's footing since the sudden departure of Lute Olson, and they took it because of one reason: Sean Miller.
Despite this highly ranked class and the return of starting point guard Nic Wise, Arizona fell short of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1985. It was understandable, and, honestly, the ending of the streak was probably for the best. While it would have been nice to continue the program's legacy, it officially signified the Sean Miller Era in Tucson.
This is when everything really took off.
Miller gathered a trio of recruits for the class of 2010. The solid-yet-unspectacular class -- or at least it was perceived that way at the time of signing day -- of Daniel Bejarano, Jordin Mayes, and Jesse Perry all made it to campus. All three were expected to contribute, but there was a slight sense of disappointment after the head coach had allegedly missed out on his top-targets for the class.
While the sharp-shooting Bejarano was unable to see playing time, both Mayes and Perry would prove to be huge assets on a special team.
That team was none other than the elite eight squad from this past season. We all know the story; Derrick Williams solidifies himself as an All-American, Mayes, Perry, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Kyle Fogg, and MoMo Jones all become key role players, and the team falls a point short of the program's fifth Final Four appearance.
Not too many coaches could have had that kind of a turnaround in such a short time span. To take a broken program and transform it back to the level it performed at a decade ago simply does not happen seemingly overnight. Yet somehow, someway, Miller did it. The program was saved.
Now, the future looks as bright as it ever has. A stacked four player recruiting class has made it's way to Tucson, the team for the upcoming season projects to be ranked in the top-20 to begin the season and has the potential to make yet another deep run in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournament, and Miller has all but solidified the top-recruiting class for 2012.
What more could you ask for?
A national championship, perhaps? Sean Miller is working on that, too. And if the last two years are any indication, betting against the man is probably a bad idea.