PHILADELPHIA — Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon supports embattled University of Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller, whom Gordon played for during the 2013-14 season.
ESPN reported that the FBI has records of wiretapped phone conversations between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a runner for a prominent sports agency, in which Miller talked about paying $100,000 to get star high-school prospect Deandre Ayton to sign with Arizona.
Miller has said he “will be vindicated,” and a lawyer representing Ayton’s family has said the allegation is false.
For two years, the FBI investigated bribes in college basketball. In late September, assistant coaches at four colleges were charged with crimes, including an assistant coach at Arizona, Emanuel Richardson. Dawkins and two Adidas officials also were charged.
Gordon attended Arizona for one year and was college teammates with current NBA players T.J. McConnell of the Philadelphia 76ers and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Brooklyn Nets.
“Sean Miller was nothing but great for me and especially the guys that were on that team: T.J., myself, Rondae,” Gordon said Saturday when asked about the report about Miller.
“He was nothing but great — just upstanding, just a role model and a great coach, a great person,” Gordon added. “This doesn’t take away from who he is as a person and who he is as a coach. He’s very successful. Yeah, the NCAA has a stranglehold on the money revenue coming through, and they need to start paying players. They really do. They need to start paying players more. It’s too bad that the FBI is so concerned with that and not concerned with other things. It’s just a domino effect at this point. You want to tip one over and the rest are going to go down. So the NCAA should pay players.”
During Gordon’s one-and-done season at Arizona, the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight but lost in a regional final to Wisconsin in overtime 64-63.
Gordon was the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer that season, averaging 12.4 points per game, and the Wildcats’ leading rebounder, averaging 8.0 boards per game.
Miller admires Gordon, too.
In 2014, a few weeks before the Magic picked Gordon fourth overall in the NBA Draft, Miller praised Gordon in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel.
“I think initially when he enters the NBA he’s ahead of the curve for a rookie with his ability to defend, because he can defend multiple players and he’s a great defensive rebounder,” Miller said then.
“That’s what he brings to the table early. As he continues to mature and grow as a player and get older, his scoring will continue to rise. His shooting will continue to improve, and I think at that point, when all of that comes together, then you’re going to have an elite NBA player.”
On Saturday night, Miller did not coach the Wildcats in their game against the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore.
In a statement, Miller said, “I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight. I continue to fully support the university’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team.”
Gordon supported Miller when Gordon was asked for his reaction to Miller not coaching Saturday.
“I’m super-disappointed,” Gordon said. “He’s such a hard worker, just an incredibly hard worker. A great coach. But his future is still bright when it comes to coaching. An awesome guy. Whether it’s in the NBA or whether it’s in college, he’s going to keep coaching. He’s got coaching in his blood. It’s too bad to see that.”
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