Move on....Move up!!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
I admit it!! I'm naive!! I drank the Sean Miller Kool-Aid!! I believed him when he stole that CBS TV banner from the arena in Phoenix last March and inscribed it with his promise to take Xavier Basketball to a Final 4. I've been to a few coaching rodeos too starting with Bob Staak 25 years ago. This guy had me - hook, line and sinker!! I'm not alone in my naivette. My good friends Joe Sunderman and Byron Larkin bought in big time to Sean's sincerity. So I'm in great company.
I think Sean believed his own rhetoric. It wasn't a line or a lie or just plain BS when he peddled it.. So why is he in Arizona and why was I so dissappointed last week??
Money is part of the equation as it was with Ohio State and Thad Matta in 2004. Arizona has plenty of cash. They had to pay up dearly to replace Lute Olsen. His lingering departure had destroyed recruiting. Archrival Arizona State was making big strides under an East coast guy - Miller's mentor - Herb Sendek. Sean's coaching buddies John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Matta were certainly recommending the move for the money - for the conference plus it takes Miller away as recruiting competition regionally. Every little bit helps!
Sean knew Sendek hadn't missed a beat recruiting out West signing James Harden and others. He just shifted his Final 4 goal from XU to UA for more money and a larger conference stage. Not a bad trade if you can stomach bailing on players, fans and friends you've left and let down. But there's always collateral damage.
I wish Sean had stayed another year because he could have realized his dream at Xavier and bigger and better opportunities than Arizona would have developed. I wish Miller nothing but the best. He always treated me well. He respected Xavier's basketball tradition. He added much to the relentless improvement of the program.
His dedication to sticky half court man to man defense and selfless share the ball offense has defined and confirmed the correct formula for winning Muskie basketball in March and April (someday very soon).It's ridiculous that some bloggers are hoping Xavier abandons the Miller-Matta approach and plays run and gun, chuck and duck, 94 foot pandamonium. Sean's teams compiled a 6-4 NCAA Tournament record including an Elite 8 and a Sweet 16. He leaves XU hoops in great shape with a deep talented roster.
I figured Chris Mack would be the coaching choice because the guy doing the selecting - AD Mike Bobsinski - knows what he's doing. Short term, Chris ensures continuity. The roster is stacked with talent. Looks like everybodies' staying although Derrick Brown may still be flirting with NBA notions.
Mack may tweak the playing style a bit and run a trifle more because he will have the depth to do that, but why try to fix what's not broken? The support systems academically are well established. The off-season conditioning is underway. A lot of the staff is apparently staying -- strength coach Chris Rounds, Mario Mercurio, Travis Steele has been promoted to assistant coach. Chris needs to hire two assistants and map out recruiting strategies.
Most importantly, Mike Bobinski is available as a valuable sounding board and alter ego. When Sean Miller took over, Dawn Rogers was AD. She was probably a fine administrator but, frankly, Miller was on his own in basketball matters as a first year coach. Bobinski will be a huge help in Mack's transition from second chair to first. Chris's first hire says a lot about his management ability.
Brian Thornton will thrive as Director of Basketball Operations. He's articulate, intelligent and believable as an ex-player. He can work with the post players and have instant credibility as a former First Team All Conference Player. XU hasn't had a true Big Man coach since Louie Orr left in 1994.
Mack is well qualified after working extensively under Skip Prosser and Sean Miller. He's a hard worker and a relentless competitor. Here's a guy who raised his game during the summers playing against the toughest inner city kids instead of hanging out at the swim club.
Here's a player who rehabbed two serious knee injuries and came back to win back-to-back Summer League MVPs by playing above the rim and better than ever. Nobody gift-wrapped coaching opportunities for Chris. He started out as a girls JV coach at McCauley then thrived as a head coach for the Mt. Notre Dame women. He did the basketball operations thing before earning a job on the bench.
I believe Chris understands the job and the school and the city. I think he's a perfect fit to take Xavier back to the Elite 8 and onto the Final 4. It's a lofty goal I believe is attainable and so does Chris. It will be an intriguing journey. Maybe X can knock off Arizona on the way.