Sean Miller was introduced last on Friday night, after all his players. Soon after, Miller addressed the crowd for the first time since the news of an FBI investigation forced Arizona — and its head coach — into national headlines.
Miller didn’t say much in his first McKale Center appearance since his longtime assistant Book Richardson was arrested by federal agents a month ago. He thanked the crowd for kicking off the season. He said: “The Red-Blue game is always the first of many great memories. This year’s team is on the cusp of doing some special things.”
Then Miller instructed half the crowd to cheer for the red team and the other half to cheer for the blue team.
There were no apologies or acknowledgments of impropriety. Not that most UA fans were expecting Miller to do that, anyway.
Most of the fans who spoke to the Star on Friday said they support Miller, though the Red-Blue Game crowd varies drastically from regular-season attendees. Those who attend the annual intrasquad scrimmage tend to be more enthusiastic — and, in this case, more forgiving — than season-ticket-holders with substantial money invested.
“It didn’t change my opinion of Sean Miller. It did not,” said Michael Beardsley, a 27-year old Tucson native who has been an Arizona fan his entire life. “We’re all the same community, and this community loves our team, and no matter what, we’ll always have the team’s back.”
Bob and Pat Constantino have been season-ticket-holders at McKale Center for 15 years. On Friday night, they sat in the first row behind the courtside seats for the first time. The Constantinos loved their new seats, and no FBI investigation was going to prevent that.
“It’s sad, that’s all,” Bob Constantino said. “We feel badly about it. (Miller) wants to win a national title, and that’s great. He wants to be the best, and that’s good. There’s a few people that have won that way, but not very many. At the same time, almost all the big schools have had trouble.”
The Star asked four other fans about their thoughts on Miller and Arizona’s involvement in the FBI investigation, and they refused to respond.
Mike Ganzigans, a UA student, doesn’t even believe Miller knew what longtime assistant Book Richardson was doing. FBI agents say he took as much as $20,000 from a sports agent, using much of it to land a verbal commitment from New Jersey point guard Jahvon Quinerly.
Richardson is facing as much as 60 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines if he’s convicted on all charges.
Miller “doesn’t give me the vibe — I just don’t see him as that type of guy,” Ganzigans said. “But it does set back the team a little bit.”