While watching an ESPN documentary on the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” – and noting how the Pistons won two NBA titles after a series of setbacks in earlier playoff runs – Sean Miller saw a parallel to a certain college team.
The Wildcats were a Jamelle Horne three-pointer away from the Final Four in 2011 and a Nick Johnson jumper (or a non-call, depending on your point of view) away from the Final Four in 2014.
“We have a lot of similarities at Arizona to what the Pistons were doing during that stint as they continued to get to that Eastern Conference final,” Miller said during an appearance on the Jim Rome radio show today. “They were so close and then it was taken away. Part of what made them great is they were knocking on the door so many times they developed a toughness and a will that they wouldn’t be denied when their time came.
“Hopefully in our program we have some of that… we’re excited about where we’re moving and hopefully what we’ve gone through will only develop that toughness that will lead to a break through.”
Miller said UA’s loss to Wisconsin came as a result a “tough block/charge call, if you will,” referring to when Johnson was whistled for pushing off a defender, and said the call was disappointing after the freedom-of-movement rule changes were implemented last season.
Miller explained why when Rome asked him if he put behind him the Wisconsin loss and the call or if he still thinks about it.
“A little bit of both,” he said. “Probably the disappointing thing about the way the game ended on the call was the point of emphasis really from the onset of September, October and in the fall was to really take away the charge and if in fact you call an offensive charge then clearly a defender has to be set. You get away from impeding the dribbler’s progress. If you look at that call it was almost the complete opposite of the emphasis.
“But you know how that works. The end of the game is always put under a microscope, especially in the NCAA tournament and there were a number of calls prior to that if you were a Wisconsin fan you’d say could have gone the other way. So we move and learn from it. We put ourselves in position to be in the Final Four but as you know in the NCAA tournament, you need big plays, great shots and sometimes a little good fortune. So hopefully knocking at the door like we did this past year will set us up for maybe this year where we can break through.”
Rome asked Miller about the decisions of Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson to leave. Miller said Gordon had a “fairly straightforward” decision to make as a lottery pick, while saying Johnson received feedback saying he wasn’t going to move up in the 2015 draft.
“Clearly, winning a national championship burned inside of Nick, but for the most part they said, `You’ll be in and around the same place next year if you decided to come back and you risk a few other factors, so why don’t you get it started if that’s something that’s inside of you.'
“I’ve really supported Nick wholeheartedly and I feel like, as with Aaron, whatever role they put him in they’ll be extremely happy.”
Miller said Gordon will be in a “much different place” as a player in five years than he is today.
“He’s only 18 years old and the one of the things people are talking about – not just me but anybody who’s ever dealt with Aaron -- is he’s wise beyond his years. He has no fraud to him. What he says is what he does. He’s a great teammates and an incredible defender and he has some athletic talent talent that very few people have and if you combine that with his work ethic and the drive that he has considering how young he is he’s going to continue to add to his perimeter game, his shooting is going to continue to improve.
"Now with all those intangibles on his side he’s going to be that guy that everybody wants to play with. You don’t have to run a lot of plays for Aaron. He’s not caught up in what position he’s playing. He’s just a basketball player."
Miller also said he was honored to be an assistant coach for the USA Basketball’s U18 team this summer, as he was as a player for the 1991 World University Games team.
“That experience was one of the greatest experiences I ever had,” Miller said, later adding with a laugh: “I think the one thing stands out I’m the only one in that (team) picture who didn’t play the NBA.”
The full Rome interview with Miller can be heard here.
The big money is starting to flow in from the Pac-12's media rights deals and UA earned a $19.8 million share from the conference, according to records obtained by Jon Wilner of the Mercury News.
Wilner says that the Pac-12 reported $334 million in total revenue, and distributed $228 million to the schools, keeping $106 million for conference expenses.
Arizona is still one of six schools Isaiah Briscoe says are recruiting him the hardest.