ARIZONA (AP) — Arizona coach Sean Miller fueled plenty of speculation over the weekend by listening to an offer to replace Gary Williams at Maryland.
The deal was already done. He and Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne had a strained relationship. Byrne wasn’t doing enough to keep the coach who led an impressive turnaround in the desert. Miller was using the flirtation to get a new deal. Miller’s wife, Amy, doesn’t like Tucson.
None of it turned out to be true, which frustrated Miller as he worked through a difficult process that led to a contract extension with Arizona.
“If Greg Byrne and my wife took a hit because of me, shame on me, because that’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Miller said Monday. “The fact that that’s over with right now and I’m looking at all of you, it’s almost embarrassing. I want to coach our program and deal with our team, and the future here is very bright.”
Without mentioning Maryland specifically, Miller outlined some of his thought process in listening to an offer that would have taken him out of the desert.
The 42-year-old coach led a quick turnaround at Arizona, rebuilding a program that had been in flux since the leave of absence and subsequent retirement of coach Lute Olson.
A year after missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years, Arizona won 30 games for the fourth time in school history in 2010-11 and reached the NCAA West Regional final after winning the Pac-10 regular-season title.
Miller won the conference coach of the year award and seemed to be locked into the desert after taking his name out of the running to coach North Carolina State, where he served as an assistant coach following a playing career at Pittsburgh.
But when Maryland came calling, Miller figured he at least had to listen. He spent most of his life on the East Coast, growing up in Pennsylvania. He also coached at Xavier, and still has plenty of family and friends back east.
Miller reportedly met with Maryland officials in Las Vegas over the weekend, sending the speculation swirling. In the end, Miller quashed all the reports by agreeing to a contract extension late Saturday night, a deal he says will keep him in Tucson for “the long haul.”
“It was an opportunity that I really felt in the best interests of our own family and myself to at least pause and consider,” he said. “By doing that, it also really strengthens your belief on the place that you’re at.”
Maryland hired Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon on Monday night.
Miller’s deal to stay at Arizona had been in the works for a while.
Miller and Byrne said they had been having discussions since the season ended in March and the talks became more intense the latter part of last week, culminating in the deal that both hope will end speculation that there’s dissension between them.
“I feel fortunate every day that we are working together,” Byrne said. “He knew that certainly this weekend, and he knew that well before this weekend that that’s where we were. I don’t think there was ever any doubt about that.”
Miller has only been in Tucson for two years, but because of the turnaround he’s guided at Arizona he’s already been approached by two high-profile programs.
So what happens when the next school comes calling? Maybe nothing.
“I’m not that guy that’s going to do this again next spring and the spring after,” Miller said. “You may be surprised, especially because I’m someone who left east to go west, that people will once in a while reach out, almost check and see where you stand. There are a lot of those opportunities that happen that never come out. This one did, because I at least considered it.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)