If it weren't so much fun, and so fascinating, the inordinate attention paid to the search for a new Arizona men's basketball coach would be annoying.
Maybe it remains annoying, regardless of the drama. The story is, after all, about a sports coaching job at a university. It's not who shall lead government, it's not about economic recession, job loss, hungry people, budget balancing, taxation, life's uncertainties … none of that.
Maybe that's why we do pay so much attention, and why we editorialize about it. It’s a distraction from the stuff that can drag you down.
On Monday, Sean Miller, 40, the childhood dribbling prodigy and Pittsburgh career assist leader, the guy who has led Xavier, of Cincinnati, to the Sweet 16 these last two years, accepted the position as Lute’s (and Kevin's and Russ's) successor at the UofA helm. Up to seven years, if the regents allow, at something near $18 million. A lot of frogs, just to coach a basketball team.
Credit is due UofA athletics director Jim Livengood, who's been ripped through this "ordeal" more than an old rag. When Lute tried to hang on, Kevin O'Neill took the reins. When it appeared O’Neill wasn't the right guy, he was gone. When Lute retired, weeks before this season began, Livengood tapped Russ Pennell, who took the 'Cats to high ground.
Livengood could have given the job to Pennell, who would have done just fine … except that he had no recruiting class, no big-name appeal, and the prospect of hard times once Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, and maybe Nic Wise, head for millions of dollars in the NBA. When hard times arrived, as they will, the monied alums would have howled, Russ wouldn’t be as warmly received, and Livengood would be out looking for a big-name coach. Livengood knew as much. That's why he went for USC's Tim Floyd, who said no, and on to Miller, a young guy who can coach with a bright future.
This writer saw Miller's Xavier team play twice in Boise, where the Musketeers convincingly defeated Portland State and Wisconsin in the NCAAs. The X Men do not have a star system. He goes deep into his bench, and substitutes regularly. They play very hard-nosed defense, run when they can but not often, and do what the coach asks. All that is predicated on having players, and Miller will need time to find them.
And one other thing. The X Men happened to be in the airport after their second win, watching tournament play on TV, and we crossed paths. To a man, and including Miller, they were polite and carried themselves well. That matters, too.
Well, that big distraction is solved! Back to real life.