Arizona coach Sean Miller said Monday his emotional Senior Day address “certainly wasn’t a goodbye speech,” saying he was overwhelmed by McKale Center fans and didn’t think it was the proper time to be speaking about the future.
During a postgame ceremony to honor UA grad transfers Justin Coleman and Ryan Luther after UA’s loss to ASU on Saturday, Miller said there was a feeling of bitterness “about a lot of things” but said McKale Center was a “magical” place thanks to its fans.
“There’s no fans in the world that are more loyal and it has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center for the last 10 years. Thank you for everything.”
Asked during his postgame news conference Saturday if his speech suggested he had doubts about his future, Miller said he didn’t want to comment on it.
But, after speculation grew over the weekend that Miller might have been saying farewell, Miller was asked Monday if too much was being read into his speech.
Miller’s complete answer:
“It certainly wasn’t a goodbye speech. I meant everything that I said. You have to take into consideration context. I think part of me in that speech is you’re overwhelmed by the fact that there’s still a crowd in attendance. We lost to our rival. That’s a small part of it, obviously.
“We finished our season. It’s not a successful season by any standards, other than to a large extent, I think we did about the best that we could. So from that perspective it’s not like I’m pointing the finger at anybody on our team. If anything, I’m pointing a finger at myself.
“But I meant what I said in terms of I can’t imagine a fan base treating a coach any better than this fan base has treated our staff and me and it’s been from the beginning when I was the fourth coach in four years, 10 years ago, through a lot of great moments and the last two years where a lot of fan bases would change to not feeling good.
“But the group of people who come to McKale. I think we led the Pac-12 in attendance again. It’s overwhelming to see the support. I’m not naive enough to think it would be like that at any other place. It may not be like that at any place.
“And the second part of me how I worded what I worded was it’s also not the time to talk about the future. At that moment, I hadn’t even talked about our team. It’s still not the time to talk about our future. For us, me, the coach it’s not fair to this group, this team, to talk about a period of time when they’re no longer going to be here. So for us, I want to make sure we address things in the present and that was my best attempt. And if it was taken any other way, that certainly wasn’t what I was trying to accomplish.
“But I think if you look carefully at my message and words … I can't thank the group, the fans, the people who are season ticket holders and how much they've stood by this team and our staff and the last couple of years under some very trying times.”
Sean Miller clears the air on his emotional Senior Day speech. “It certainly wasn’t a goodbye speech. ... I meant what I said.” pic.twitter.com/Jl8wIP5Kbe— Justin Spears (@JustinESports) March 11, 2019
Arizona has averaged 14 turnovers in its past three games, after averaging only 10.7 over its first 15 Pac-12 games, one of the Wildcats' previous strengths.
"We had long stretches this season where we played with 10 or fewer turnovers," Miller said. "We had first and second halves that you know we played with three or four, which is a great strength that I think any coach would love to have.
"But these last two games, we've not been able to do that. And it's led to subpar performances ... we're not good enough to overcome that many turnovers. We have too many things that are against us already.
"We don't have a large margin for error, and the game again at Oregon. In our last game of the season against ASU it reflected what it feels like when we don't do what we do best. Our turnovers, really, really hurt us badly."
Miller said he can see about six Pac-12 teams winning the conference tournament this week. Of what it would take Arizona to get through what is perhaps the most difficult four-game path possible, he said:
"We have to play really good offense. You would have to be able to point to that we played above our, our heads, so to speak," Miller said. That "we overachieved on offense and sometimes it's free throw shooting you know it's when one game you're 22 for 25 from the foul line and you win by one point.
"But we have to find a way. I do think there's probably six teams that join this Pac 12 tournament that are capable of winning three or four games. I look at Oregon — I certainly wouldn't want to play them, had that feeling when we played them last weekend, and watching them do what they did to Washington on (UW's) last home game.
"They have talent, depth, are really hard-playing team. They have a lot of versatility. They've had success in Vegas. I could see them being tough out."