More so than during or after the federal trial involving college basketball last spring, sports agent Christian Dawkins and his attorney say in the upcoming HBO documentary “The Scheme" that UA coach Sean Miller was lying when he said he never knowingly violated NCAA rules.
The two-hour film, which is scheduled to debut on March 31 but was released Tuesday to media for screening, quotes Dawkins saying "there's no way you can separate Sean" from any belief that then-UA assistant coach Book Richardson was a cheater.
"The thing with Arizona is, like, Sean Miller has to know everything that's going on," Dawkins said in the movie. "Book was loyal to Sean. Arizona was definitely more open to getting some (expletive) done."
Richardson was arrested and later fired after the federal investigation into college basketball became public in September 2017. Richardson took a plea agreement and served a three-month prison sentence; he was released in October.
Richardson's attorney, Craig Mordock, told the Star that Richardson declined to do an interview for the movie and that he didn't want to do one without Richardson's involvement.
"The Scheme" plays new audiotapes, including one of a conversation between Miller and Dawkins in which Dawkins says handlers of five-star recruit Nassir Little, who was believed to be choosing between Miami and Arizona at the time, "definitely wanted to get some (expletive) for themselves."
Miller replies: “Miami doesn’t have an advantage over us in that area, do they?”
The film also contains wiretaps between Dawkins and Richardson that were played in the trial, including one where the former UA assistant says Miller “fronted” a deal for top recruit Deandre Ayton.
A jury found Dawkins guilty of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in May, while he was found not guilty on three charges of bribery, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and the travel act. Following the verdict, Dawkins told a Star correspondent that he "never had conversations" with Miller about delivering Ayton to Arizona. Dawkins added that he didn't see anything wrong with paying players, and that he wouldn't "throw nobody under the bus for something I agree with."
"I'm not going to put (Miller) in a position that could hurt him," he said then. "It's just too sensitive for me. I don't care that much. I don't want him to lose his job."
At the time, Dawkins also questioned the accuracy of a February 2018 ESPN.com story that said Miller discussed paying Ayton with Dawkins.
Miller spent five days away from the Wildcats after the ESPN story was published, returning to team on March 1 of that year.
When he returned, Miller said he “had never knowingly violated NCAA rules … never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or representative to come to Arizona. I never have and I never will.” Miller said he was approached once about paying a player (whom he did not name), and that he wouldn't agree to it.
UA president Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke have said multiple times that they support their coach.
Dawkins' response is different in the documentary than it was on the courthouse steps. Following a clip of Miller's March 2018 denial, the camera cuts to Dawkins.
“Yeah,” Dawkins said. “That wasn’t true.”
Dawkins says he "thought of Book" when watching Miller's denial. (Richardson said after his sentencing that he had "no knowledge" of Miller paying players).
"I mean, Sean should have his own movie agent or some (expletive) or manager, like, he should be an actor,” Dawkins says. “That was really high-level. I was convinced, honestly.”
When the clip of Miller's statement is shown, Dawkins is asked if Miller was lying.
“You wanna know my opinion? Dawkins says. “When Sean had his press conference and said has a player from Arizona ever received money or did he know anything about a player from Arizona receiving money, did he lie? Yeah, that wasn’t true.”
"The Scheme" focuses on the FBI's investigation, with background on Dawkins as something of a sports agent prodigy, and how the investigation wrapped around him and a few assistant coaches -- while one of the undercover FBI agents was accused of misconduct.
It noted that no head coaches wound up being charged, despite Dawkins' statement that the FBI offered him a deal if he could help implicate some big names.
After a woman who posed a partner in Dawkins' fledgling management company told him during a September 2017 meeting that she was actually an undercover FBI agent, Dawkins said she told him "give us Rick Pitino and (agent) Andy Miller and you'll be fine."
Dawkins said he offered to give the FBI information about government witness Marty Blazer but was told that instead "we want people like Rick (Pitino), Andy (Miller, an agent) and Sean Miller."
During that final meeting, Dawkins also realized quickly how the FBI had been wiretapping him: When Miller called during the meeting, an FBI agent's phone lit up at the same moment.
""I'm like 'Oh, (expletive),' " Dawkins said. " 'This can't be a coincidence. My phone is, like, their phone, basically. This (expletive) is crazy.' "
Among the wiretaps played in the film is one where Richardson tells Dawkins that “Sean has to get the (expletive) out of the way and let us work.”
Dawkins: “Right. No doubt.”
Richardson: “You know what I’m saying? No, nothing else like bring him into the office. This is my guy.”
After that conversation is played, Dawkins said on camera:
“Book and I are essentially talking about myself wanting to recruit Deandre Ayton," Dawkins says. "Obviously, he was already on campus. Book was one of his coaches. They have access to him every day. So I had conversations with Book about Deandre and just, you know, myself getting in front of him and hopefully having a shot at representing him one day.”
Dawkins and Richardson are then talking about Ayton and Miller. Richardson says Miller is paying Ayton "ten" per month, and Dawkins replies by saying "he's putting up some real money for them (expletives). He told me he's getting killed."
To the HBO camera, Dawkins then says he's "being told that Sean is the one who is financing the Deandre Ayton situation," before the movie cuts to Steve Haney, Dawkins’ attorney and a former college basketball player at San Jose State.
“I mean, is Sean Miller paying players?” Haney says with a chuckle. “I think if you can’t believe the head assistant coach, on a wiretap, who doesn’t know he’s being recorded, in his truest of moments, talking to his buddy, and he’s saying that Sean Miller is paying players? You have to be a really, really diehard Arizona fan to believe that he’s not."
The camera cuts back to Dawkins.
“If anyone’s gonna say Book is a cheater, and Book was a liar and Book was paying players, then there’s no way you can separate Sean from it.”
“I could care less if these guys are paying players," Haney says. "I don’t have anything personal against Sean Miller or (LSU coach) Will Wade. I don’t know these guys. But I think that Christian’s relationship with them was very clear from those wiretap phone calls by the way they were having conversations with each other, right? Not very formal."
To prove that point, "The Scheme" plays a wiretap of Miller telling Dawkins an expletive-filled story about disciplining a player, with Dawkins laughing in the background. Haney says it's evidence that the two had a close relationship.
"Very comfortable with each other," Haney said, smiling. "They had worked together. On a lot of different things."
Another wiretap played in the documentary has Dawkins asking Miller about Naz Reid, a former UA recruiting target. Miller implies that Reid may be mentioning Arizona in an attempt to leverage a better offer somewhere else.
"He's going to LSU," Miller says. "We're not even bringing him in on a visit. That's all (expletive). I'm looking at our recruiting board and he's not even on it. I've never talked to the kid. All this (expletive) hype (expletive) on the phone, it's stupid. He is probably saying, 'You know what? (Expletive) you. I don't want 75. I want 120. I may go to Arizona.' That's all that was."
Dawkins then tells Miller that Wade is "driving up the price of (expletive)," to which Miller says, "I tell you what, I give him credit; he's got a big set of (expletives) on him."
In the wiretapped conversation about Little, Miller asks Dawkins if he should focus on the club coach or club director when it comes to recruiting the fast-rising forward. Dawkins responds by noting that those around Little “definitely wanted to get some (expletive) for themselves because they have been taking care of the kid…”
Miller responds: “Miami doesn’t have an advantage over us in that area, do they?”
Dawkins: “Well, I’ll say this, what Miami does have is Adidas.”
After that wiretap is played, the camera cuts to Dawkins. "Yeah, there was no question that conversation was all about money," he says. "My interpretation is, maybe Sean speaks a different language than me, but I'm pretty sure that we can all agree that what we was talking about is what needs to happen to get it done."
Little played one season at North Carolina before becoming the No. 25 pick in the 2019 draft.
The director of Little’s club team, Brad Augustine, was arrested in connection with a scheme to pay the families of his players in his AAU program to secure their commitment to Adidas-sponsored schools but charges were later dropped after he told the FBI he kept the money for himself.
Arizona confirmed last May that an NCAA investigation into the men's basketball program is underway and the school is expected to receive an NCAA notice of allegations. However, multiple public-records requests from the Star seeking communication between the UA and NCAA regarding men's basketball have so far returned no records.
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