As Big Stories Fizz Out, Better Ones Emerge
The one-and-dones are done and gone. For all the premature jibber-jabber about the NCAA tournament being a showcase for Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, what March did was show them the door and remind them that this is a month for big boys. With Wiggins upchucking his way to a four-point clunker on 1-for-6 shooting, which came a day after he giggled when asked about Stanford star Chasson Randle, it turns out the three most prominent talking points this time last week — the top two pro prospects and NBA tank-ee options, and 34-0 Wichita State — didn’t survive the first weekend.
Know any other event in sports that can weed out its best stories and, somehow, produce better ones?
“We definitely saw that video,” Randle said after Stanford eliminated a shockingly passive Wiggins and Kansas with a 60-57 victory, yet the latest example that the unanticipated is now the expected in this wonderful slice of American theater. “I definitely took it as a challenge. It was a little big extra motivation.”
Said Wiggins, whose terrible finish and erratic freshman season should make NBA people wonder if he, like Parker, has more collegiate work to do: “I let a lot of people down. If I would have played better, we wouldn’t be in this situation, you know? I blame myself for this.”
Wichita State has no need to apologize. In the best game of an already magnificent tournament that routinely has produced overtimes, buzzer-beaters and thank-God-for-TV-on-smartphone moments — yo, Roy Williams, why didn’t you get a timeout called before the clock expires? — the Shockers were a missed three-pointer away from beating a Kentucky team that finally played to its sterling potential after a dismal regular season. John Calipari made a dumb comment that will haunt him Friday night against, um, heated rival Louisville in the Midwest Regional, blurting after the 78-76 win, “I’ve been doing this so long. I’ve been in wars. You all understand this was an Elite Eight game. The winner of this should have gone to the Final Four.’’
The winner will play Rick Pitino, the reigning national championship coach, who joins other title favorites — Billy Donovan and Florida, Tom Izzo and Michigan State — in the Sweet 16. But also still around are dangerous sneakups (UCLA, Michigan, Iowa State and dancing-fool coach Fred Hoiberg); brilliant performers (Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier, San Diego State’s Xavier Thames) and, oh yes, the first-ever instance of two brothers reaching the fourth round of the NCAA tournament in the same year.
Meet the Millers. You know Sean, successful and highly paid coach at Arizona, such a dribbling maniac as a kid in western Pennsylvania that he appeared on the “Tonight Show’’ and “That’s Incredible.’’ and was given a role in the so-bad-it-was-good movie, “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.’’ And you’re just getting to know his younger brother Archie, the coach at Dayton, which now is known as THE University of Dayton after toppling THE Ohio State University and then eliminating shooting-phobic Syracuse.
Jim Boeheim is out of the tournament. Mike Krzyzewski is out of the tournament. Bill Self is out of the tournament. Sean and Archie Miller are very much in the tournament.
Sean and Archie — sons of Pittsburgh-area coaching legend John Miller, who won 583 games and four state championships — are each two wins away from joining each other in north Texas for the Final Four. I thought the John and Jim Harbaugh coaching against each other in the Super Bowl was an anomaly. Guess not. Prepare for a week of Miller minutiae, such as how the younger Miller, whose given first name is Ryan, was nicknamed Archie as a kid because he was grumpy like TV curmudgeon Archie Bunker. And how Archie, who facially still looks like a college kid, was carded at a Dayton sub shop the day he was hired as coach in 2011.
“Sean, you kind of always figured he was going to be a coach. Archie always said he wasn’t going to coach,’’ John Miller told the Beaver County Times, their local newspaper. “It was only three or four days after (college) graduation when we talked. He said, `All my contacts are in basketball, maybe I should try coaching.’ ‘’ He called one of them, Sean, who hired him as an assistant at Arizona.
If Sean is becoming a college coaching blueblood, Archie and his team remind me of last year’s upstart darlings, Andy Enfield and Florida Gulf Coast. They don’t slam and jam and call themselves “Dunk City,’’ despite the nickname Flyers, but Archie’s guys are as well-coached as Arizona. Their father always was much harder on them than the other players he coaches, and while they didn’t realize it at the time, he was grooming them for coaching.
Though it shouldn’t be hard to differentiate the two — Arizona is in the desert, Dayton is somewhere between Cincinnati and Lima — Greg Gumbel managed to do so. While interviewing Archie on Sunday, he refereed to him as “Sean,’’ then, despite realizing he’d flubbed the name, made things worse when he referenced “your brother Archie.’’ Next thing you knew, CBS was cutting away from the commercial. Geez, the younger brother becomes a major story and he still can’t escape Sean’s shadow.
“He was a lot older than me, so I always looked up to him.” Archie said of his brother, per NCAA.com “I watched him play in high school and college when I was younger and I felt like he blazed a trail for me. I also got a lot of good advice from him while I was growing up.’’
Said Sean: “He did an incredible job with me at Arizona and he played a big role in helping me get that program going in the right direction again,” Sean told NCAA.com. “I wish our time there would have lasted longer, but Archie had a golden opportunity in front of him. He had to take that job. I’m happy for him and proud of what he has accomplished.’’
You gather Archie will handle any more Gumbel-like slights with aplomb. Like Enfield last year, Archie’s wife is getting plenty of attention from the Twitter creeps. Morgan was captured during the Saturday telecast wearing a tight “Dayton High Life’’ t-shirt, Dayton replacing Miller in the familiar beer logo. Get it?
Dare I say Archie and Morgan are getting far more social attention than Sean?
When we have fodder like this, who really cares about Andrew Wiggins?