Only a few days on the job, the new University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins found himself confronting speculation that Ohio State may try to lure away the university's head basketball coach Sean Miller.
“The Ohio State University is great university, but they are not going to get Coach Miller," Robbins said during a wide-ranging interview with The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. "They will have to come over me to get him, as the saying goes, over my dead body."
Robbins said the 48-year-old Miller is a "tremendous, tremendous individual who has had great success on the court. I know he’s disappointed he couldn’t bring a national championship to the state, given that the Final Four was here."
Speculation on Twitter was rampant on Monday that Ohio State may try to go after Miller after school officials announced that men’s basketball coach Thad Matta will not return to the Buckeyes for the 2017-18 season.
The unexpected announcement means an unusually late high-profile coaching search.
Miller is considered one of the top college basketball coaches, and the 2017-18 Wildcats may be the preseason No. 1 team.
In February, the Arizona Board of Regents, who oversee the state's university system, gave Miller a strong show of support by approving a contract extension through 2022. They also voted to increase his pay over the next three years, bringing his annual compensation to at least $2.9 million a year. He's eligible for a multi-million-dollar longevity bonus funded by a private donor as well.
UA athletics staff said the contract changes will help retain Miller, who was hired in 2009.
Some observers speculated on Twitter on Monday that Miller wouldn't leave UA for Ohio State.
Robbins, who is a huge sports fan, said he had a couple of conversations with people on Monday who told him "don't listen to any of that noise. Don't be concerned. (Miller) is going to stay here."
But Robbins said he takes recruiting rumors "very seriously."
"There was a run at our baseball coach (Jay Johnson), and I think we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to (retain him). He’s another outstanding individual." He's "not just a great baseball coach, but a great leader of young men."
Robbins said he has had direct conversations with the coaches about how important they are to the university.
Robbins described Miller as "a great mentor, teaching his players the lessons of life. Even those who are going to be stars in the NBA, they are going to have to have a life after basketball."
"I just think he is a quality guy," he said about Miller. "I will do everything in my power to try to convince him to stay."
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