COACHES

Arizona basketball: Ohio State's Matta recalls a forgetful Miller - and $350 debt

2013-03-28T00:00:00Z 2013-03-28T12:03:25Z Arizona basketball: Ohio State's Matta recalls a forgetful Miller - and $350 debtPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - Thad Matta and Sean Miller chatted quietly Wednesday, the first time since last summer the two old friends had seen each other in person.

One topic: the UA coach's oldest son, Austin, wants to go to Ohio State in two years and maybe serve as a student manager for Matta.

The Buckeyes coach told the story Wednesday, and couldn't miss a jab at Miller for the $25,000 fine he received for his behavior after a Pac-12 tournament game.

"I did call him last week and told him that if his son does come, he could stay in my basement and save on room and board - because of his fine he got last week," Matta said at Staples Center. "So just trying to help him out a little bit."

Matta smiled.

He's allowed to tease Miller, with whom he once shared an office at Miami (Ohio) and whom he later hired as an assistant at Xavier.

When Miller first moved to Cincinnati, he and wife, Amy - then pregnant with the couple's third child - lived with Matta's family.

"It was a couple of weeks," Miller said. "It probably felt like a couple months to Thad and his wife."

When Matta left Xavier to become OSU's head coach in 2004, Miller took over the Musketeers.

"I wouldn't be here without him," Miller said.

Perhaps literally.

In April 2009, Matta was eating dinner with his wife at a restaurant when Miller called, weighing the Wildcats' job offer.

Matta walked outside with the phone and spoke for an hour.

"I came back, and my wife said, 'What's he going to do?'" Matta said. "And I said, 'I have no idea.'

"I've never seen a guy jump from one side of the fence to the other as many times as he did.

"I think that Sean looked at the thing that intrigued him was, Arizona is one of the, if not the, top job on the West Coast."

Matta playfully described Miller as a "sloppy" roommate and a bad shot.

While Miller could put on dribbling displays, even as a coach, that few in the world could match - he once offered campers $1,000 to learn a certain trick, knowing no one could - he wasn't a frequent winner in their shooting competitions, Matta said.

"He was a passer, not a shooter," Matta said. "I was a shooter and not a passer.

"So you can figure out how it went."

Matta described a young Miller as absent-minded.

"Whenever we'd go somewhere," he said, "he'd forget his wallet."

In 1996 or 1997, Miller, then an N.C. State assistant, planned a coaching trip for him and then-Miami (Ohio) assistant Matta: They'd fly to Miami to stay at then-Heat assistant Stan Van Gundy's house.

"He says, 'You're not going to believe this. I forgot my wallet. You're going to have to pay for everything,'" the OSU coach said. "And he was making a lot more money than I was.

"But that's him."

In 1995, Miller left Matta, and Miami (Ohio), for an assistant's job at his alma mater, Pitt.

"He had owed me about $350 for all the lunches the times he'd forgotten his wallet," Matta said. "So he's walking out, and he has his box.

"He said, 'Hey, here's what I'm going to do.'"

Miller told Matta to call Adidas and order all the equipment and gear he wanted using his name. Miller hadn't used his maximum credits at Miami.

They'd call it even.

"He walks out the door - I called Adidas," Matta said. "I said, 'This is Sean Miller.'

"They said, 'No, you no longer work at Miami University.'

"So he got me again.

"So I've never been able to recover that money from him."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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