DeCock

Arizona's Miller noncommittal on Pack coaching job

Staff WriterMarch 24, 2011 

— Sean Miller wasn't biting when asked directly about the N.C. State job, and even if he was desperately interested, the Arizona coach wasn't going to give the answer Wolfpack fans want to hear.

But Miller dropped a few other nuggets that will give hope to N.C. State fans that he would be willing to try to restore the program to the level that, say, Arizona is at right now - a conference regular-season champion in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

The second-year Arizona coach, who spent five seasons in Raleigh as an assistant to Herb Sendek from 1996-2001, is believed to be one of the top candidates for the job recently vacated by Sidney Lowe.

Before taking on Duke tonight in the West Regional semifinal, Miller responded to the speculation linking him with a return to N.C. State, exactly as one might expect.

"I just got to Arizona," Miller said Wednesday. "I'm really happy to be here. It's one of the great programs in college basketball, and I sure hope I can be here a long time."

No surprise there. That's a textbook answer from the Coaching 101 manual. But a few of Miller's other answers struck an odd chord, which may give N.C. State fans a little hope.

Asked about Arizona's tradition, Miller spoke of the milestones achieved under Lute Olson. And in discussing that legacy, he referred to himself in an odd manner.

"You look at the history and tradition of our program under Coach Olson, players, teams, we take a backseat to nobody," Miller said. "I happen to be the coach right now, and we'll see where we go."

That appears to be a reference to filling Olson's shoes and the long-term possibilities for the program, but it was a curious choice of words given the speculation he is aware is swirling around him.

Later, when asked about how quickly he turned Arizona's program around, Miller brought up moving his family across the country, which N.C. State fans no doubt will interpret as an oblique statement of his desire to return to the East Coast.

"I think I'm a week away from being at Arizona for 24 months," Miller said. "As a new staff, it's been quite a whirlwind - very few days off and a lot of traveling. Anytime you move your family from one area of the country to the next, it's more difficult than you realize until you go through it."

What's an N.C. State fan to think of all this?

For starters, don't get your hopes up.

Eight of the 10 players in Arizona's rotation should return next season - nine, if Pac-10 player of the year Derrick Williams, a sophomore and potential No. 1 pick, returns to school. Miller's next recruiting class is ranked by consensus in the top 10, and he already has a commitment for 2012 from Rivals.com's No. 12 player in the country.

Contrast that with an N.C. State program that badly needs rebuilding after missing the NCAA tournament five years in a row under Lowe, and it's hard to see why Miller would even consider it.

But the N.C. State leadership is apparently counting on Miller's ties to the university and East Coast to draw his interest. (Miller's brother Archie, the former N.C. State guard, is a current Arizona assistant.)

Given his accomplishments at Xavier and Arizona, he's an attractive figure for schools in the coaching hunt - for no school more than N.C. State, perhaps.

Miller has other things on his mind right now. N.C. State is hoping he still has the Wolfpack in the back of it.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919-829-8947

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