TUCSON — The University of Arizona basketball team held its first media appearance since allegations broke that assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson paid bribe money to a player to sign with the team.
Before taking questions Thursday, coach Sean Miller gave a statement, indicating that he still supported the press release the team put out earlier in the week.
“I stand by my statement the other day. The one that was released,” he said. “I fully support the investigation into the allegations and as that investigation proceeds, I’ll continue to work to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance in our organization.”
Miller, coaching the NCAA’s top-ranked basketball team, according to USA Today’s recent poll, said that, though there is certainly a cloud over the program due to the scandal, it is a chance to be a teacher for his young players.
He hopes they are able to look past the issues to succeed in basketball.
“You have a responsibility to do as a coach in college sports, making sure that the guys understand how to deal with the ups and down of our game, but really how it reflects life,” he said. “We all preach the same thing, and that is you have to eliminate the clutter.”
He said the team’s ability to get past the issues and focus as much as possible on finding its identity and winning games will come from veteran leaders such as junior guard Allonzo Trier.
Trier has dealt with his own share of basketball issues, including a hand injury his freshman year, and testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs after allegedly being involved in a car crash the season after.
Though he takes the allegations seriously, the investigation is another bump in the road on the way to contending for a national championship.
“It’s some adversity for us. It’s nothing we’re new to. We’re going to focus on what we can control,” he said. “We have a chance to respond to this by focusing on us, and coming together, and really pushing each other to new heights.”
Following media availability, Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said that he did not have enough information to fully comment on the investigation. However, he continues to support his coaches and the basketball program moving forward.
“This program always been one of high integrity, solid structure,” he said. “We’ve done things the right way and it’s important to support this program and these coaches. We have always been a program about doing things the right way and we will continue to be a program about doing it the right way.”