Common Bond, Close Friendship Keeps Coaches Connected

It wasn’t easy then.

It’s not easy now.

In fact, Sean Miller still thinks about it to this day.

The bond between Xavier, Miller’s players and his coaching staff made his decision to leave for Arizona back in 2009 almost gut-wrenching.

“It was a very difficult decision only because of how great of a program Xavier had,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “I recognized how lucky I was to be the coach there.”

Now Chris Mack is the lucky one as the 10.5-point underdog Musketeers look to pull the upset against Miller’s second-seeded 33-3 Wildcats.

Despite the outcome Thursday night at Staples Center nothing will chance between the two and the strong bond between hard-working coaches.

“Sean’s been instrumental in my career,” Mack explained. “He’s always been a mentor whether I was working for him, with him or now that he’s a couple thousand miles away. There’s not a challenge I don’t bring to him if I’m struggling with something.”

Off the court Mack said Miller is about as black-and-white as he appears on the outside.

“I don’t know if Sean has a funny side,” Mack joked noting Miller’s dry sense of humor still comes out from time-to-time. “He’s ultra-serous. Too serious. He needs to loosen up.”

To know one’s surprise Mack believes the key neutralizing the ‘Cats starts with tightening down point guard T.J. McConnell who Mack and Miller coached against when the now senior star was playing for Duquesne before transferring to Tucson.

“His pull up game is tremendous,” Mack said. “He does a great job of getting in the lane and getting his teammates shots [but] T.J. has shown he’ll make big shots in big moments.”

The game will tip-off following the first West Regional semi-final matching top-seed Wisconsin and North Carolina which is expected to start at 4:47 Arizona time.

 

 

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.