With Billy Donovan’s departure to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Sean Miller was named the head coach of the USA U19 team and is approaching the honor head on.
“USA basketball, I think all coaches have a special place in their heart when you say that,” Miller said. “I had the opportunity to win a gold medal as a player in the World University Games and it is one of the great experiences I’ve had in sports.
“I have been a court coach and helped in any way I can. I have been an assistant coach and now the opportunity to be a head coach. I think the involvement and giving back to the game and representing your country, it’s something I don’t know if any of us can really say no to.”
Miller also knows that winning won’t be easy.
“The one thing about this tournament, the history of USA basketball has not always been successful taking a group in this tournament,” he said. “It has either never been done winning back to back or hasn’t been done in a long time.
“It’s not like we enter this tournament as a heavy favorite. There are 16 teams, all of which qualified last summer. We’re going to face pros, teams that have been together for multiple years and we’re going to take a group over there that hasn’t necessarily always been together.
“I think from my perspective, it is competing for the gold medal and as the head coach for Arizona, it is amazing the things you learn and bring back with you when you go into international basketball. I will come back here a better coach and more prepared.”
There will be numerous differences with both style and rules that Miller and company will have to deal with.
“It is completely different,” Miller said. “The 24-second shot clock as opposed to the 35 or even 30 is a much different game. All of us have to adjust to it.
“The style that we utilize at this level of USA basketball, I think Billy Donovan created a special niche where you press and you’re able to use your athleticism and depth and get the other team almost playing against their own shot clock where even if you don’t steal the ball, I think you shorten the game for them and make it harder to score.”
In addition, Miller has a legacy that he is looking to continue and it is possible that a current Wildcat joins him.
“You think about Coach Olson, he was a USA Basketball coach and a lot of people still talk about the team he took overseas,” Miller said. “It was one of the last amateur teams to win a gold medal and people in USA Basketball still talk about that and how remarkable it was that he won the gold medal with that group.
“You look at the Arizona players, Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, Andre Iguodala just to name a few, played in USA Basketball. Everybody that does it learns more, creates relationships, comes back a stronger player and a more confident player.
“Aaron Gordon was the MVP of this same tournament two years ago. He had a great summer, which I thought really led into a tremendous freshman year here. Last year I was an assistant to Stanley Johnson and he got the MVP.
“I don’t know if Allonzo will be on the team, I am not the decision maker. I am a small part of that, but if he was fortunate enough to make it, it would be a great experience for him.”