As anyone would expect, Sean Miller disavowed any interest in the N.C. State job when asked directly about it. Even if he was desperately interested, the Arizona coach couldn’t possibly say anything else with his team getting ready to play Duke in the Sweet 16.
But Wolfpack fans hoping Miller will come to Raleigh can take solace in two little nuggets Miller dropped while discussing other subjects, including describing himself as the Arizona coach “right now.”
Miller is believed to be one of three coaches on Debbie Yow’s short list, along with Texas A&M’s Mark Turgeon and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. Miller’s reaction to a question about the job Wednesday provoked the standard response.
“I just got to Arizona,” Miller said. “I’m really happy to be here. It’s one of the great programs in college basketball and I sure hope I can be here a long time.”
And this doesn’t exactly sound like a coach looking to go anywhere: “Hopefully more than anything, this is the start of a lot of things down the road, that we can again return to being a staple in this tournament and a team that’s capable of advancing. That was always the goal from Day 1 coming in.”
Or this, about his five years with Herb Sendek at N.C. State: “It was a tough time there at N.C. State. It was very difficult to recruit and to me, moving through that phase is always a reminder of how important recruiting is and how hard it is to build.”
Does not sound like a man eager to take on the task of rebuilding that program -- all over again.
But State fans will no doubt dissect everything he said, and that includes a certain portion of his response to a question about how quickly he resurrected the Arizona program.
“I think I’m a week away from being at Arizona for 24 months,” Miller said. "As a new staff, it’s been quite a whirlwind -- very few days off and a lot of traveling. Anytime you move your family from one area of the country to the next, it’s more difficult than you realize until you go through it. But we’ve been very fortunate in our recruiting efforts that most of our players, to a man, have come in and done a great job.”
Wait a second -- no one asked him about moving his family. Surely, that’s a reference to the rumors his family would be happier living back on the East Coast, right?
It’s a reference to how difficult it has been for him to do what he has done in Tucson, and how hard it has been on him and his family.
But State fans looking for a glimmer of hope will see one there. And maybe there is one. It was an odd moment. If Miller wanted to send a message, that’s how he would have done it. Who knows?
Earlier, while discussing Arizona’s tradition, Miller referred to himself in a somewhat odd way, given the rumors swirling around.
“You look at the history and tradition of our program under coach (Lute) Olson, players, teams, we take a backseat to nobody,” Miller said. “I happen to be the coach right now, and we’ll see where we go. We’re proud of going 29-7 on the year.”
“I happen to be the coach right now, and we’ll see where we go.” Is reading anything but the difficulty of carrying forth Olson’s legacy into that reading too much?
But that’s how these coaching searches are. The real conversations happen out of sight, between coaches’ confidants and agents and schools’ headhunters and consultants.
Whatever Miller’s real interest level in the State job is, we won’t know until Arizona is eliminated from contention.
So “we’ll see where we go,” but N.C. State fans are going to have to settle for these crumbs as long as Miller remains one of Yow’s top targets and Arizona keeps winning.