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Miller Heeds Caution with Expectations

November 6th, 2014 News 4 Comments

Sean-Miller-3 (1)
Ezra Amacher

Sean Miller is known for speaking his mind. He doesn’t gabble in coach speak and he doesn’t tend to hyperbolize. In a day and age where coaches talk like politicians behind the mic, Miller is one of the few exceptions in the game of college basketball.

All to say that Miller’s comments today should not be taken with a grain of salt. And for Arizona fans, that’s worrisome.

“For us realistically, we’re not that good of a team right now,” said Miller at his first presser since the Red Blue Game. “We’re nowhere near where we would have been a year ago at this time. And I can see us getting off to a rocky start in the month of November especially with Maui and a couple of games that we have and ditto for December.”

That’s not what Wildcats fans want to hear from the head coach. Not in a year where Arizona is projected to a consensus top-three team and a favorite to make the Final Four. A year where nothing short of a national championship will satisfy a craving fan-base.

“I don’t know if we’ve had any person enter our gym through the first 24 or 25 practices and tell me that we’re a good team,” said Miller. “I’ve had probably as many as 30 people tell me that either that we’re not as good as everybody said we were, or that they can see that certainly we have the makings of something good down the road.”

In summary, this team is a work of progress that’s currently behind schedule.

That’s the bad news. The good news, of course, is that it’s only early November and Miller is just as respected for speaking his mind as he is for getting his teams to peak at the right time.
Talent shouldn’t be the issue. Similar to last year’s Kentucky team that struggled early, middle, and late in the season, Arizona is loaded at every position.

The problem rests in getting everyone to buy into the program, to honor the process, as Miller likes to say. Right now, it doesn’t sound like the Wildcats have the type of on-the-court chemistry required to be an elite defensive team.

Miller also made multiple references to the absence of Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, particularly in regards to the leadership the two brought. It’s not hard to read in between the lines there. Somebody, whether it’s TJ McConnell, Brandon Ashley, or Stanley Johnson, needs to fill that void.

Once again, it’s far too early to get overly concerned. But it’s also not a good sign that three days away from Arizona’s first game, an exhibition versus Cal Poly Pomona, no one has claimed the role of leader, at least in Miller’s eyes.

It’s unlikely that fans or the media will lower expectations based on a few quotes, but if one thing was clear from Miller’s press conference it’s that the Wildcats will look far from a national title contender when they play in front of the public for the first time on Sunday.

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4 Responses to “Miller Heeds Caution with Expectations”

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  1. Doug Brodess

    November 7, 2014

    Great piece, Ezra. One of Miller’s many great qualities is direct communication. He gives praise when it is deserved. He provides candid comments when improvements are needed. Not worried about this team, even if they drop a few non-conf games. Can’t wait for the season to begin

  2. Jeff

    November 7, 2014

    Whatever Arizona’s alleged problems are, I’m not sure they will manifest themselves too clearly in an exhibition against a Division-II team.

  3. Orion

    November 7, 2014

    I’m just a fan, far away from Tucson, here in Southern California. I haven’t seen any of our practices. Miller’s remarks did shake me up some. He’s got one or two things up his sleeve. Either he is trying to psychologically jolt his team, or he is just waiting for them to come around. This idea of waiting for a leader to emerge is peculiar only to basketball, I think. On a football team, coaches seem to have a captain elected by the team. This guy is the leader, or the quarterback, if he wasn’t elected leader, becomes the leader by virtue of his position. On our team, coach could have such an election. If the wrong guy is elected, meaning he doesn’t step forward as a leader, then TJ should become the leader, by virtue of his position as quarter back of our team. TJ should be the leader any way. He’s a fifth year senior, PG, and has a good personality. We saw it at the Red/Blue. Come on, TJ!

  4. Mike Goldthwaite

    November 8, 2014

    The Sean Miller approach to the game of basketball, which I admire and dearly endorse, requires the team mentality to approach playing offense as getting business done so you can have fun playing defense. Get the ball in the hoop so you can get back and play D, not the other way around….

    This has got to be tremendously difficult to accomplish with individual players who see individual offensive stats as the stepping stones to making it in the NBA.

    Smother a team defensively with talent such as what we have at Arizona and we could have 5 leaders out there all the time, with TJ being the loudest cheerleader! Zona players should have as their goal, making it difficult for teams in the NBA to decide WHICH Zona player to select when it’s their turn to choose!

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