An independent report gives juicy details of March 15 incident that drew a technical foul and fine for Arizona coach Sean Miller.
For about as long as Chip Kelly was football coach at Oregon, Washington fans dreamed of the day Kelly would leave to be the smartest guy in some room other than Eugene. The idea was, it would diminish the odds of what has become an annual bruise applied by the Ducks.
Well, that happened, and we’ll see how it works out. UW fans with long memories were perhaps only referencing the tenure of Don James, who, sainted though he was, benefited much of his career here from the struggles of the Pac-10’s bellwether program, USC.
For the UW, there could be a similar drama playing out in a different sport.
The Pac-12 just released an independent report by Ice Miller, an Indianapolis law firm, on the volatile events of March 15 in Las Vegas. That was the night official Michael Irving slapped a technical foul on Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller, and soon, word leaked out of the “bounty” comments by coordinator of officials Ed Rush offering money or an expenses-paid trip to a ref who would crack down on bench decorum.
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Well, predictably, the report concluded that while the since-deposed Rush made the comments, they weren’t to be taken literally, and the officials who heard them didn’t. So in the innocence of a Sunday afternoon, release of the investigation was widely greeted by yawns, since it backed what the Pac-12’s internal probe had found late in March.
But the devil is in the details, and there are some juicy ones in that 52-page report, particularly as they concern Sean Miller.
This we know about Miller: Pittsburgh guy who played at Pitt, earned his coaching chops at Xavier and was very hard for Arizona to pry loose.
In his early years in Tucson, Miller questioned privately the toughness of his players. He even broadened the concept into an East Coast-rugged-West-Coast-soft dichotomy.
He brought in Kevin Parrom from New York and loved him. In an Arizona postgame the night of the infamous Xavier-Cincinnati fight in 2011, Miller hardly gave a nod to the ugliness of what had happened. Instead, he dwelled on the don’t-back-down mentality of the Xavier players. Later, he would add guard Mark Lyons from the Xavier program, partly for the attitude.
Two years into his Arizona tenure, he would think long and hard about leaving the Wildcats, whom he now has in the conversation about a national title, for Maryland.
Fast-forward to the night of March 15. Rush’s officials have their antennae up, and Irving T’s Miller. The report says even Rush was taken aback, believing the technical unwarranted.
Miller, the report says, was within a foot of the unsuspecting official at game’s end and began a salvo of expletives at him, causing the whistle to drop from the startled ref’s mouth. Then, in a hallway, a Pac-12 Conference junior staffer heard Miller say, “You’re a (bleeping) cheap-ass conference,” and “Cheating (bleeping) conference.”
That doesn’t sound like a guy bullish on his surroundings.
Miller was fined $25,000, after refusing relief offered by the league. That would have required meeting with Rush and commissioner Larry Scott and Arizona coming up with a plan, as the report says, “to work with Miller on his conduct.” USA Today reported in April that the league had reprimanded Miller in January for a postgame confrontation with officials.
So Ed Rush is gone now, but you wonder if that’s also the case with the testy relations between Miller and the league. Asked about it Monday on a year-ending conference call, Scott talked about new officiating leadership and new structure and said, “I have no question or concern about a great relationship going forward.”
And where does Washington figure in? The Wildcats have been a nemesis in player acquisition under Miller. They snatched Angelo Chol — who didn’t develop and has transferred to San Diego State — from the Huskies, and more hurtful, they just one-upped Washington for coveted forward Aaron Gordon of San Jose.
Not to say the Huskies can’t be good even if Arizona is. But a listing Arizona program makes for one less obstacle. I’m guessing sooner rather than later, Sean Miller moves east and accommodates them.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org