Arizona coach Sean Miller on Saturday sounded like someone whose days on the job are numbered.
Miller, one of the game's big names ensnared in the federal investigation into college basketball corruption, grew emotional in a speech to fans following his team's 72-64 home loss to rival Arizona State.
"The fan bases that we're often compared to, the giants of the college basketball game -- Kentucky in Rupp Arena, Phog Allen Fieldhouse with Kansas, you can fill in the blanks of the other places -- but there's no place that's more magical," he said to cheers from the McKale Center crowd.
"There's no fans in the world that are more loyal. And it has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center for the last 10 years," he said. "Thank you for everything."
ESPN, citing sources familiar with the government's evidence, reported in February 2018 that FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone conversations between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a key figure in the corruption investigation. In those calls, Miller discussed paying $100,000 to ensure former star freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats, the sources said.
According to people with knowledge of the FBI investigation, Miller and Dawkins, a runner working for ASM Sports agent Andy Miller, had multiple conversations about Ayton. When Dawkins asked Sean Miller if he should work with assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson to finalize their agreement, Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money, the sources said.
Richardson, who was accused of accepting $20,000 in bribes to steer Arizona players to certain managers and financial advisers once they turned pro, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery. He could face 18 to 24 months in prison at his sentencing in U.S. District Court in New York on April 24.
After Richardson was arrested in late September, Arizona president Robert C. Robbins announced that the university had hired two law firms to conduct independent investigations into the matter.
Robbins has stood by a statement he first made in October, when he said, in part, "Based on the facts that we know at this time, we support Coach Miller."
Miller's contract provides that even if he is fired with cause, the university would have to pay his base salary. The contract defines his base salary as his salary plus his peripheral salary. That adds up to roughly $10.3 million through May 2022. The only part that Miller wouldn't be entitled to is $1.7 million from Nike and IMG that is due to him if he completes his contract.
The Wildcats (17-14, 8-10 Pac-12) have struggled throughout the season, leaving them in need of a strong run in next week's Pac-12 tournament just to get a bid to the NIT.