Xavier HC Sean Miller reflects on career at Pitt, opening Panthers job a few years ago

GREENSBORO, NC – For Pitt fans, Sunday’s NCAA Tournament opponent will be led by a very familiar coach: Sean Miller.

Miller, a four-year standout at Pitt from 1987-82, is in the midst of his first season (second round) as coach of the No. 3-seeded Xavier Musketeers, who defeated Kennesaw State on Friday to play Pitt. .

The Musketeers’ head coach, originally from Beaver County, PA, played at Blackhawk High School in Oakland alongside some of the biggest names in Pittsburgh hoops history. Miller averaged over 9 points per game in each of his four seasons with the Panthers and finished his college career with over 1,200 points and 740 assists.

While Miller was playing at Pitt, a young Jeff Capel was playing high school ball in North Carolina. In 1993, Capel won the 1993 North Carolina Player of the Year award for his performance as a senior.

“It was a big deal when Sean went to Pitt,” Capel said. “He was a four-year starter. Really, really good player. He got help in the most famous game ever at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the greatest plays ever in college basketball history. Pitt is the man. He has been an exceptional coach. I remember as an assistant coach at NC State when I played for Herb Sendek. You knew then, just watching him on the sidelines, seeing his passion and fiery demeanor, you knew he was destined to be a very good coach. And he has done that everywhere he has been. He has been an exceptional coach.

During his Pitt career, Miller assisted on one of the most iconic dunks in college basketball history and arguably the most notable slam in Pitt history: Jerome Lane’s “Send it In!” slam.

“I think that dunk, that play makes a strong case for the greatest dunk in college basketball history,” Miller said Saturday. “It was on Holy Monday, I think, in front of the nation. I think the only negative of the play and being associated with it sometimes, I don’t think people really take into account how great a player Jerome Lane was. It’s almost like he played one game, but he led the nation in rebounding, he was an All-American, an NBA player. An incredible player as well. He was inducted into Pitt’s Hall of Fame this fall. I really appreciated attending. He saw him and many of his teammates. It was great to be there. The only thing is when you’re part of that play, no one can ever accuse you of not acting. Every February you remind them that at least they could dribble and pass.’

After his playing career, Miller became a graduate assistant at Wisconsin, beginning his coaching journey. Since then he has coached at Xavier (2004-09), Arizona (2009-21), and is now back in Cincinnati coaching the Musketeers.

In 2018, Miller was said to be interested in Pitt’s head coaching vacancy. On Saturday, he was asked about that possibility, and whether he thought about filling that position or not.

“No, not really,” he said. “It never worked. You know, I think that’s better for me because I kind of want my memories of Pitt to be when I was there as a student, as a player. Some of the greatest years of my life, playing in the Big East Conference, you know, meeting people like Curtis Aiken, who does radio for Pitt, who took me under their wing, treated me like a little brother. And I really learned a lot through my experience at Pitt on and off the court. As much on the court as off the court. And it’s a big reason why I wanted to get into coaching, to be around that. These are great times. Those are my memories, that and family and friends. I think it’s easier that way.”

Miller has an overall record of 448-165 in his coaching career. This year’s Xavier team is his 12th to lead to the NCAA Tournament, and the Musketeers are still dancing.

Sunday’s game against Pitt will be broadcast live on CBS on Sunday at 12:10 p.m. The winner will advance to face the winner of Penn State-Texas.

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