Pac-12 Coach of the Year Debate: Dana Altman vs. Sean Miller

Posted by Mike Lemaire & Adam Butler on November 9th, 2016

There is no clear-cut favorite in this season’s race for Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Most pundits are picking Oregon‘s Dana Altman but it feels like he is winning by default. Altman has something working against him, though, which is that expectations are already sky high in Eugene. If Oregon wins the conference it may be because they were expected to win the conference, and if the Ducks underachieve, Altman will quickly fall out of the race. I still think that Altman is the right pick and the correct pick. Adam and his eternal soft spot for Sean Miller respectfully disagrees. Here’s the case for each.

The Case for Sean Miller

Sean Miller Has His Work Cut Out For Him This Season (USA Today Images)

Sean Miller Has His Work Cut Out For Him This Season (USA Today Images)

As of today we must acknowledge that we don’t know that status of Allonzo Trier. He’s pretty good at basketball and critical to Arizona‘s success this season. That said, if he misses extended time and the Wildcats still finish among the top three teams in this conference, it should only further cement Miller’s claim on Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Beyond the fact that the conference set a precedent of rewarding overachievers (all of the 2015 awards), Miller is poised to navigate a Pac-12 season with a group of talented players all of whom are in brand new experiences. Considering Altman returns 68 percent of the minutes played by his rotation last season and UCLA’s Steve Alford is only moving players into more natural positions, Miller will almost certainly have a larger impact on his team’s success that some of his counterparts. And in making this candidacy, I don’t want to paint the Wildcats as underdogs. They’re not. They’re ranked 10th nationally and even in the absence of Trier (and now, Ray Smith) they still rate as a top-30 team according to Sports Illustrated‘s What-If scenarios. Even with just eight scholarship players, none of whom has significant experience in their role, expectations are always lofty in Tucson. But Arizona only plays Oregon once (in Eugene) and has a schedule that is favorable so that this inexperienced, albeit loosely veteran, roster can have time to develop. Miller teams trend well late in the season and this is a group that likely won’t buck that trend.

The Case for Dana Altman

Dana Altman, Oregon

Dana Altman Has Built A Winning Roster in Eugene (Drew Sellers/SportsPress NorthWest)

Part of being a good college coach is recruiting good players, and so it seems strange that Altman should be punished for putting together the best team in the league. In fact, he should be rewarded for his ingenuity. The Ducks have both highly recruited and lightly recruited players on this roster; they have junior college transfers, and they have Division I transfers. Most importantly, though, Altman has assembled the deepest team in the conference and is largely position-less. The Ducks are expected to be a two-way terror that will rank among the top 10 teams in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Altman’s purposeful roster construction has a lot to do with that. If Miller leads Arizona to 25 wins this season, I’ll allow that it will look like a more masterful coaching job than if Altman wins 30 games, but this is flawed logic. It seems unfair to criticize Miller if Allonzo Trier doesn’t play, but he did recruit him and it is Miller’s roster that will be developing the contingency plan. Altman should not be hindered for returning almost everyone from a team that was a #1 seed and nearly made the Final Four. He should be instead be praised for having the foresight to put together a roster that can sustain that level of success. Plain and simple, if Oregon wins the conference outright and is a top-two seed in March, this award should be Altman’s to lose.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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