A man stopped me at the airport baggage carousel last Sunday and asked, “How much longer are you going to be doing this?”
“Writing about sports.”
Before I could answer, he told me I should quit.
“You rushed to judgment on Sean Miller,” he said. “You should be ashamed.”
I didn’t get a chance to answer because the man began to walk away. He looked back and shook his head.
“Quit,” he said. “Quit today.”
He spoke with such force that others waiting for their bags turned and stared. The eyeballs were all over me.
Who’s that man and what did he do wrong?
Here’s what I did wrong last Friday night: I did not preface my opinion that “Miller cannot be allowed to coach the Wildcats again” with a necessary qualifier. I did not precede my opinion with “if this is true.”
That’s something I should’ve learned in journalism class in 1972. Four words. I will remember and regret that omission until I do quit, and thereafter.
A few sentences later I weakly wrote that, “unless this is a monumental misunderstanding,” Miller will be disgraced.
Too late. I blew it.
I’m not some faraway TV analyst in New York or at ESPN who hasn’t spent 8½ seasons watching, listening and studying Miller’s character. In the heat of the moment while sitting in a hotel room last Friday night in Eugene, Oregon, I didn’t take enough time to consider those 8½ years and to ask myself this question:
Do I know enough about what happened to say — to shout — what should happen next?
When I re-read my statements in Saturday’s sports section — even after I heard ESPN’s Jay Bilas say that Miller will “never coach again” — I was engulfed by regret.
For the last few days, dozens of people have asked me if I hate Sean Miller.
I have no personal relationship with Miller. Although he can make a reporter’s job difficult, my life has been much more stimulating because of what the coach has done here.
I look forward to every aspect of UA basketball. Wins, losses, good, bad — even impossible late-night deadlines. I didn’t think I could enjoy a job much more than I did during the Lute Olson years, but Miller has matched it.
That’s the real reason I haven’t quit this job and turned to gardening or golf.
There may be more unpleasant news as the investigation into college basketball continues. On Thursday, Miller claimed ignorance, but he’s not vindicated. If and when more news breaks, I will be obligated to write my opinion about it.
Since September, the Star has aggressively covered the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. My colleagues Bruce Pascoe and Caitlin Schmidt, among others, will continue to report on any developments, good or bad.
I’ve squabbled with many UA coaches over the years, from Olson to Rich Rodriguez, and although some say that comes with the job of an opinion writer, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be fair.
It doesn’t mean you can go on a Phoenix radio station, as I did on Tuesday, and exaggerate a scenario that had Book Richardson feeding me information. He did not. I apologized to Richardson through his attorney and both men were kind enough to say we should move on.
I hope you will trust me to do the same.