Coaches' relationship makes game tougher

Sean Miller have Thad Matta have known each other for quite a while. Read on to see what both say about the relationship and more.

When Thad Matta and Sean Miller get together, it is inevitable that talk will turn to how long the two coaches have known each other.

"All of us as coaches are products of the staffs we've been part of, the places we've worked," Miller said. "Thad and I really got to know each other in the early '90s, which is a long time ago now. We were assistant coaches to Herb Sendek, Charlie Coles was the other assistant coach.

"I don't know if it was just the timing or personalities of all three of us, but I think we all had a profound effect on each other, something that goes beyond coaching. A friendship of great meaning. Obviously Charlie has passed, but Thad and I obviously are very close.

"I think we're both from basketball families. Thad had an older brother who is a very good player. His dad was a coach. Same with me. My younger brother, sister played. My dad was a coach.

"We came together at Miami University. I think I was an assistant coach already. I was in charge of our summer basketball camp. He happened to be one of the workers at the basketball camp at that point. Really since then, the rest is history."

Miller and Matta keep in contact, although both admit that it decreases a bit during the season.

"We communicate," Miller said. "Both of us, once we get into the season, you just always seem to be talking to your own team, moving through your own schedule. I would say we probably communicate more through texts.

"There's always a handful of times we speak during the year. Once the season is over, I think we talk maybe a little bit more often. I'm glad I didn't talk to him a whole lot this year because I didn't spill all the things you don't want that other coach to know, and vice versa probably on his end."

Both coaches would rather play another opponent, but often times that's simply the way the bracket works out.

"You know, it's hard to play someone that you care a lot about," Miller said. "You know, this is the third time that we played. I think every time that it happens, it's less of a burden, it feels more natural. This feels more natural now than maybe the second time or certainly the first time.

"Inevitably if you're in this tournament, you're going to find yourself matched up against friends or former places that you've been. It just seems to be part of the storyline that makes the tournament. Last year everybody would bring up my brother as Dayton would march towards the Final Four and we were simultaneously. I guess that's one of the many things that makes this tournament so captivating.

"Thad and I are good friends, but I think this game is so much about Arizona versus Ohio State, two very good teams playing for a Sweet 16 opportunity. I think that's to me our focus right now."

Still, it is hard for both coaches to avoid the fact that one is sending the other home.

"First thing I do when I'm shaking hand, I'm trying to get my $400 I loaned him back in 1999," Matta joked. "He never repaid me for all the lunches I bought him. I know this. I'm very proud to have worked with Sean, and to watch what he's done from Xavier to Arizona, I couldn't be happier.

"Obviously I told those guys in there it means a lot to me to have played these guys two times in the last three years in the NCAA tournament, once in the Sweet 16, now in the Round of 32. I think it says a lot about the jobs that both of us have done. I think you've got two of college basketball's top programs in terms of what have stood the test of time.

"The fact that one of my best friends is coaching the other team, I've always said this, a lot like last year when we got by Dayton, Archie Miller was the coach.

"I hated to lose, but I was so happy for him, that he got to continue to advance. I mean, it stings. You don't want to do that. I think in terms of tomorrow, if we were fortunate enough to win, it's one of those that you kind of feel bad going down shaking the hand. But, you know, it sort of is what it is"


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