Sean Miller has been fired as the head coach of the Arizona men’s basketball team.
The school announced Wednesday that Miller, who had one year left on his contract, was leaving the program, and that associate head coach Jack Murphy will serve as interim head coach. Arizona also said it would honor the terms of Miller’s existing contract.
“We appreciate Sean’s commitment to our basketball program and to the university,” Arizona athletics director Dave Heeke said in a statement. “After taking the many factors involved into account, we simply believe that we need a fresh start and now is the time. I want to thank Sean, Amy and their sons for their service to the university and wish them the very best in the future.”
Miller had been in Tucson since 2009, leading the Wildcats to seven NCAA tournaments and three Elite Eight appearances. Arizona won at least a share of five Pac-12 regular-season championships under Miller.
“We’re evaluating the overall position of the program, and that includes on-court and off-court elements,” Heeke said. “When you step back and evaluate where the program is, we have incredibly high standards to have success on and off the court. We evaluated it and we decided at this time it’s the appropriate time to make a change so we can restore and rebuild the overall status of this world-class basketball program.”
Arizona had been entangled in the 2017 federal investigation into corruption in college basketball. Former assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery after being accused of accepting $20,000 to steer Arizona players to aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins. During Dawkins’ trial, prosecutors played an FBI-intercepted call in which Richardson told Dawkins that Miller was paying $10,000 a month for former player Deandre Ayton. Miller has consistently denied paying players to attend Arizona.
The NCAA charged the school with five Level I violations, according to a notice of allegations released last month. The program was hit with two alleged instances of academic misconduct, while Miller was charged for not demonstrating “that he promoted an atmosphere for compliance and monitored his staff.”
“It was obviously a difficult and very important decision,” Heeke said. “I wanted to take the time to consult, have the appropriate conversations to understand the direction, and then ultimately that’s why we landed where we are today.”
Arizona self-imposed a one-year postseason ban for this past season.
Sources told ESPN that Arizona had been considering a contract extension for Miller but that the board of regents would not approve it because of the ongoing NCAA issues.
“After conferring with Dave Heeke since the season’s end, it has become clear that our men’s basketball program – and our University – needs to write a new chapter in our history, and that begins with a change of leadership,” university president Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. “Arizona Basketball means so much to so many and, as stewards of the program, we must always act in the best interests of the university. I believe our future is bright, and I look forward to welcoming a new head coach to the Wildcat family.”
Before taking over at Arizona, Miller had been the head coach at Xavier for five seasons, going to four NCAA tournaments, including one Elite Eight run.
One potential replacement buzzing in recent days has been longtime Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, sources told ESPN. Names with Arizona ties expected to be involved include Pacific’s Damon Stoudamire, Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Miles Simon. BYU head coach Mark Pope had been linked to the job earlier in the season, and Arkansas’ Eric Musselman is another name who could get a call to gauge interest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.