Arizona fires Sean Miller, looks for coach who can win games, generate dollars

After firing men’s basketball coach Sean Miller Wednesday, the Arizona Wildcats will have to look for a successor who can continue to make the program a success. Men’s basketball has been a big revenue generator for the athletic department. (Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – As the University of Arizona searches for a new men’s basketball coach, it will seek one that can sustain the success that has defined the program since the mid-1980s.

And that includes financial success.

The university fired Sean Miller Wednesday on the heels of an NCAA investigation that charged the school with five Level I violations. The notice of allegations released in March said Miller did not show that he “promoted an atmosphere for compliance and monitored his staff.”

The men’s basketball program is a significant revenue generator for Arizona’s athletic department. It pulled in more than $22 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, and after expenses, made a profit of $12,053,624.

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According to Cronkite News research, that profit is greater than that made by 65 of the 68 teams that participated in this season’s NCAA Tournament during the same 2018-19 time period. (The Wildcats weren’t eligible this year because of a self-imposed one-year postseason ban as a result of the NCAA investigation.) Their profit was at least five times more than any other Pac-12 school during the same stretch.

“When we step back and evaluate where the program is, we have incredibly high standards to be a program that has success at all levels, on and off the court,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Dave Heeke. “When we evaluated it, we feel like it’s the appropriate time to make a change, so that we can restore and begin to rebuild the overall high caliber status of this incredible world class basketball program,”

Miller has had a long and accomplished career as a college men’s basketball head coach. He started at Arizona after serving as head coach at Xavier University for five seasons. In his 12 seasons as head coach at Arizona, Miller compiled a record of 302-109. Miller led Arizona to seven NCAA Tournament berths and three Elite Eight appearances.

“After taking the many factors involved into account, we simply believe that we need a fresh start and now is the time,” Heeke said.

University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said, “It had 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.”

Miller was awarded Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2010. He was also Pac-12 Coach of the Year twice, in 2013 and again in 2016.

“We appreciate Sean’s commitment to our basketball program and to the university,” Heeke said.

School officials said they are looking for a coach to lead the team in a new direction. Arizona has a long and successful history in men’s college basketball, and they look to be competitive nationally.

“The expectation is to be a nationally caliber program that can compete to be in the Final Four,” Heeke said. “We just saw our women’s basketball team do that. It’s a remarkable run by coach (Adia) Barnes and our women’s program. That’s the type of run we want to be on in this men’s program as well,.”

The new coach will need to understand how to run a successful basketball program, act with integrity and genuinely care about the athletes, Heeke said.

“This is a world class basketball program, with a tremendous history that goes back many, many years. We need someone who can embrace that and help vault us going forward,” Heeke said.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Regina Burgess expects to graduate in December 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism.