Sean Miller hired as men's basketball coach

University finds best candidate for head coach within as former associate head coach promoted to top position | July 9, 2004

Xavier University named Sean Miller as the head coach of the men's basketball team on Thursday, July 8, at a press conference in the Conaton Board Room on the Xavier campus. Miller, who served as associate head coach for three years under Thad Matta, replaced Matta, who resigned on July 7 to become the head coach at Ohio State University.

The University wasted no time in hiring Miller. He was interviewed on Wednesday evening, shortly after Matta confirmed he accepted the Ohio State job. He was officially offered the position on Thursday morning.

"It's been a fast and furious 24 hours," said director for athletics Dawn Rogers. "At 7:00 p.m. last evening when our search began our focus immediately shifted to Sean. He’s played an important part in recruiting and player development at every program he’s been at. Even though we were willing to take as long as necessary in our search, it quickly became apparent we didn’t have to go any further than the Cintas Center.

"We were very fortunate to have a national caliber coach available who also has a clear understanding of the program and who supports the mission of our University. Sean has been a big part of our success over the past three years, and I know he is the right choice to build on that success for our future. Our best days are yet to come."

The hiring of Miller ends what has proven to be a stressful period for Xavier fans, who have only been able to sit back and watch as Ohio State lured away a coach who took the program to its highest peak, the Elite Eight, in last year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. It’s also been stressful for the University's administration, as University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., noted while introducing Miller.

"I began my day in the chair of my dentist with my mouth full of sharp instruments," said Graham. "It was not an optimal way to start the day. But my words to my dentist—as well as to all those who filled my inbox with e-mails—were, 'Stay calm, relax, we've been here before and we’ve always moved forward.'"

Miller will continue that trend, said Graham.

"In his three years here at Xavier, I have gotten to know Sean on a personal level. He clearly possesses the personal style and skill to continue our success as one of the premier basketball programs in the nation, on the court and in the classroom. He is committed to our Jesuit, Catholic mission of preparing student-athletes to graduate and become men and women for others."

As Graham also pointed out, it took Xavier less than a day to accomplish what Ohio State struggled with for more than a month—finding a new coach.

Miller said that this should be the last coaching search the University has to go through for a long time. Unlike some of his predecessors, he said, he views Xavier as the top of the coaching ladder.

"This is where I want to be," he said. "I come with the perspective of the highest level of basketball, and I came to Xavier because I knew there was something special about this place. I looked at it as a diamond in the rough—that it was the highest level I could be at.

"And when you’re tied with Duke coming out of the final TV timeout and just minutes away from the Final Four, I don't know what else is out there that is bigger than that. When you have three players drafted into the NBA in the last two years, I don’t know what's bigger than that. This is the pinnacle of basketball."

Although the coach is new, don't expect a lot of changes on the court. Miller had a great deal of influence on the players who were recruited and the action on the court, and that will carry over, he said.

"It will be very similar to what you've seen in the last three years, although with a little different personality to it," he said. "I'm a little more attacking of a personality. I will probably change defenses a little more and push the ball at a littler higher rate. But we've had a great deal of success in the last three years, and I'd be foolish to change a lot."

Miller inherits a team that lost three starters from last year's Elite Eight squad—two of whom were drafted by the National Basketball Association—but inherited a team that Rogers says is a Top 25 caliber team. The team returns two starters—sophomores Justin Doellman and Justin Cage—as well as its sixth man, junior point guard Dedrick Finn.

Making sure those players are comfortable with him is his first priority, he said, followed by hiring a staff. The team's other assistants, John Groce and Alan Major, followed Matta to Ohio State.

"If I have one defining moment, it will be the hiring of my staff," he said. "One of the things that made Xavier so successful over the last three years is that we had a staff that really complemented each other and allowed the players to get to know us. I want to build a staff like that, and I will take my time. They will be young and have a passion to recruit, but in the same breath they will understand the mission of the University. If I turned on my cell phone, I’d probably have 80 calls from people wanting a job. That validates what kind of place Xavier is."

Miller, 35, came to Xavier as part of the staff assembled by Matta three years ago. Miller spent the previous five seasons as an assistant at North Carolina State and two years before that at Miami (Ohio) University. Miller began his coaching career as an assistant at Wisconsin. He also had a coaching stop at his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. He has now coached on 10 teams that have advanced to postseason play in his 12 seasons as an assistant coach.

Miller, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Pittsburgh in 1992, was born on Nov. 17, 1968, in Pittsburgh. He lives in Loveland with his wife, Amy, and their three sons, Austin (7), Cameron (4) and Braden (1).

For additional coverage about the hiring of Sean Miller, see stories in the Cincinnati Enquirer.