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Pitt Coaching Candidates: Sean Miller of Arizona should be at top of Panthers' list

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has barely settled, but it's already time to start speculating on potential coaching replacements for head coach Jamie Dixon, who bolted for TCU on Monday.

Jim already started this over the weekend when word broke that Dixon could be leaving. Aron looked at a few guys with local ties today. At the top of their list was the guy who should be at the top of Pitt's - Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

Let's get this out of the way - Miller could certainly be a long shot. ESPN's Jeff Goodman says, he ain't comin'. Pitt offers quite a bit in terms of playing in a great conference and a bit of history, but Arizona's basketball history certainly trumps that of the Panthers'. In the Pac-12, Miller is already in a major conference and he's also been settled there for some time now, having coached for seven years there.

There may be little chance he's interested, but Pitt needs to find out.

Is Miller a slam dunk to bring success? No coach really is. But if you look at his track record, it's still noteworthy. In only 12 years of being a head coach, Miller's already been to four Elite Eights. He's missed the tournament three times, but in two of those, it happened during his first year on the job at Xavier and Arizona. The third? Miller's Wildcats landed in the NIT despite winning 23 games.

Ironically, one small issue with Miller is that he's failed to do what so many Pitt fans wanted of Dixon - to take the team to the Final Four. Despite being loaded with talent, Miller's teams have often underachieved in the NCAA Tournament. His latest disappointment happened this past weekend as his No. 6-seeded Arizona team was upset by No. 11 Wichita State in the first round. It's quite possible that he comes here and hits the same ceiling that Dixon did.

The good news? Miller's Arizona teams reached at least the Sweet 16 in his other four appearances with Arizona. While he's underachieved, he certainly looks capable of getting Pitt back to where they were in the earlier part of Dixon's tenure.

Beyond that, Miller's staffs have been known for one thing that Barnes specifically mentioned in his press conference on Monday when discussing qualities for a new head coach.


Miller's Arizona teams have been filled to the brim with talent in recent years. For the 2016 class, his team has two five-star players and a four-star kid, per Rivals. In 2015, he had three five-star kids. In 2014, he had one five-star and four four-stars. The list goes on and on. Yes, it's true that he hasn't done enough with it in not reaching a Final Four, but there's no doubt that Miller's staffs recruit extremely well. Scout has had Arizona as a top five recruiting class for the past six years in a row - let that sink in.

Always at play here is the money, but Pitt has plenty of that now. Not only are they much better off financially in joining the ACC a few years ago, but they also have the newly-acquired buyout money from TCU for Dixon. Plus, Dixon's salary (which was believed to be in the $2-$3M range) is now freed up as well. Money is not and should not be a huge factor here.

Pitt may have an uphill battle when it comes to luring Miller here. It may not be possible and perhaps Miller doesn't even answer when he sees the 412-624 number come up on his cell phone. But it's clear that in losing Dixon, Barnes' very first call should be straight to Miller.

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