In the two hours between when men’s basketball coach Sean Miller announced he was leaving Xavier and the University pulled together a late afternoon press conference, athletic director Mike Bobinski’s phone didn’t stop ringing. Coaches from around the country kept calling, expressing their interest in being the next head coach of the Musketeers and trying to get on his short list of candidates.
For Bobinski, that was the best news of what was otherwise a difficult day. Miller, who accepted the head coaching job at the University of Arizona, won more games (120) in his first five years as a head coach than any other Xavier coach and won more NCAA Tournament games (six) than any other coach in Xavier history. He just completed a 27-7 season—the third most wins in a single season—and led the Musketeers to back-to-back Elite Eight and Sweet 16 appearances.
“Am I disappointed Sean’s leaving? Absolutely,” he said. “But that’s the price of success—people are going to be interested in your coaches. It’s a double-edged sword. Good coaches get good opportunities. I can tell you Sean’s had a number of opportunities over the years and none of them were right to him. It’s a very personal decision, and if he made the decision to accept this offer, then I trust this was right for him.
“I can also tell you that in my 11 years, we’ve been here talking about hiring a new coach three times, and each of the previous times people have wondered what was going to happen. What happened was we got better each time. And I think that’s what’s going to happen again this time. Xavier basketball has had an amazing trajectory over the last 20 years, and we don’t plan on changing that. We’re not dependant upon any one individual for our success. We have the infrastructure in place and we’re grounded in a lot of fundamental principles that allow us to keep moving upward.”
The overwhelming response to the news of the coaching vacancy, he said, is a strong indication of how well respected Xavier is in the basketball world and how coveted the position is among the coaching community.
“It’s a testament to who Xavier is and what we are all about,” he said. “We’re poised right now to be the very best in our history. The team we have in place is one of the best ever, and the only thing that will change is the person who occupies the head coach's office.”
The next step of going through those phone calls and compiling a list of candidates who might occupy that office began immediately after the press conference concluded Monday afternoon. Bobinski—who serves on the NCAA Tournament selection committee and is well known throughout the college basketball community—wouldn’t comment on any names, but did indicate it’s his job to know who’s available and who would be a good fit at Xavier.
“We’re going to move as quickly as possible without rushing,” he said. “We want to find someone who understands who we are and what we’re all about at Xavier, who is a good fit with the character and integrity of the program. We’re not for everybody.”