Arizona head coach Sean Miller has always preached, “honor the process” and has always made defense a priority; but it might be time for the Wildcats to prove they still have an identity.
No team in the nation could compare to the home court advantage Arizona displayed since its last home loss almost three full seasons ago.
“We know we are going to get everybody’s best when they play us,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “It’s a sign of respect. It’s their Super Bowl.”
The Wichita State Shockers took over the title with 42 straight home wins and the Kansas Jayhawks moved to second with 37. Think about what a crazy ride Arizona’s 49 straight wins were. Every team in the Pac-12 Conference feared the beast that McKale Center had become.
“This is the program that has set the standard in the Pac-12,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “It’s not even debatable.”
But there are a few things to consider, and a few things to gain, as the Wildcats began a new streak with a win over Oregon State on Saturday. For the first time in a while, Arizona fans had abandoned their team and left McKale Center before the final buzzer. To the fans that united in the game’s final seconds to chant “U-of-A, U-of-A,” I applaud you.
It’s not easy to see your team lose at home for the first time in three years and the crowd that saw the Wildcats blow past the Beavers in the second half Saturday know that home losses won’t become commonplace.
Many have antagonized Miller over his treatment of center Kaleb Tarczewski after he pulled him in Thursday’s loss.
“I don’t care what it’s perceived like,” Miller said. “I have a great relationship with Kaleb and he has a great relationship with me. I’m myself, I’m a coach. I’m going to push our team to be the best we can be. I’m going to push each of our players to be the best they can be. I’m going to love them. Once in a while, they are not going to like the things [I] do, it’s like a parent.”
Let’s focus on that for a moment. Miller screamed at his senior leader, cursing him out, and fans did not seem to like that. In fact, it’s been all over the Tucson local media since it happened.
“This isn’t tennis, this is basketball,” Miller said when talking about his frustrations with Tarczewski after their loss. “There’s accountability on offense and defense. You win as a team and you lose as a team.”
I played club basketball for a couple of months in high school. I was yelled at with every single inappropriate word you can possibly imagine. Coaches would constantly scream in the players’ faces and especially tell them not to talk back. If you talked back, you would be running suicides for days. Miller tried to light a spark under his team and it might have worked.
“We’ve got to come to grips with two things,” Miller said. “One, Sean Miller’s your coach. You’re going to play for me. And number two is, you’re going to [play] so hard you can’t breathe.”
Miller refuses to apologize and he shouldn’t have to. He told his team’s leader in the heat of the moment that his execution wasn’t good enough and that he had to step up.
Were there a few curse words in there? Absolutely.
“Kaleb’s good, Kaleb has been through that for four years behind closed doors, I’m sure that they yell at each other all the time, or at least coach yells at [him],” senior guard Gabe York said. “Coach was trying to prove a point. I think that was more to scare the freshmen and the younger guys that [he’s] going to be able to do this to the biggest, strongest person in the country. I don’t think the younger guys are going to talk back to coach either.”
Miller’s methods proved effective in Arizona’s win over Oregon State. It’s time for a new streak.
Saturday’s victory over the Beavers in McKale Center was win number one.
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