This is Tucson's Mt. Rushmore, where two heads are better than four. An enlarged head shot of former Arizona coach Lute Olson was waved by a fan during Pac-12 Conference tournament games in Las Vegas last week. The guy next to him held aloft a similar-sized mug of current Wildcats Coach Sean Miller. A picture says 1,000 words? These two said job security. Miller came to Tucson in 2009 to find a program that had been in disrepair since Olson retired. The Wildcats were 40-29 in the two previous season and made the NCAA tournament both years, but that was not good enough for Arizona basketball. This week, Arizona was placed at the top of the NCAA tournament's West Regional. The Wildcats, who open against Weber State in San Diego on Friday, are the first No. 1-seeded team from the Pac-12 since UCLA in 2008. Now that, folks in Tucson will tell you, is Arizona basketball. All of it rests on the shoulders of one man, just as it did for 24 seasons with Olson. "There was a lot of temporariness in our program after Coach Olson left," said George Kalil, a fan who has missed only 10 Arizona games in 42 seasons. "Coach Miller came in and everything he has done has been perfect." Well, maybe not perfect. Arizona won the Pac-12 regular-season championship — Miller's second — this season but lost to UCLA in the conference tournament final. Miller took the Wildcats to a regional final in 2011, but they have not been to a Final Four since 2001. There is work to be done. But Arizona believes it has found a new face of Wildcats basketball. "Coach Miller certainly understands what history is, what Coach Olson brought to Arizona basketball," Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne said. There are differences between Olson and Miller, and one of them was captured in the faces held up by the fans in Las Vegas. Olson is smiling in his photo. Miller is grimacing. "Lute likes good meals and good wine," Kalil said. "Sean has a bottle of water and goes back to work. I think he'll be the first person in history to need a voice box transplant. "We'll pay for it," he added. "We need him."
Sean Miller filling Lute Olson's shoes at Arizona
Los Angeles Times | Mar 19