By Bryan Roy
Special to FoxSports.com
TUCSON, Ariz. — Nobody expected Sean Miller to win a Pac-10 title by his second year.
Not even himself.
Maybe that's why, during his post-game interview on CBS that echoed throughout McKale Center after Arizona's title-clinching win against Oregon, he choked up a bit.
The crowd used Miller's brief pause to erupt just as they expected to do as Pac-10 champions.
“You really learn to cherish when these moments happen,” Miller said when asked about his interview with CBS. “There's no guarantee they happen anytime soon.”
Nobody was guaranteed success would happen this soon.
Nobody thought it would only take two seasons for Arizona to regain its footing, even in a mediocre Pac-10. After Lute Olson fumbled the program's elite status during retirement, two interim coaches competed with two untraditional recruiting classes.
Nobody forgot what the difference between “good” and “Arizona good” meant. Before every game, fans get reminded of Olson's haydays in a pregame video where Richard Jefferson boasts All-Americans, Luke Walton says “eight Elite Eights” and Olson himself flashes the 1997 national championship ring.
Saturday's video had one new addition: Sean Miller announcing the program's 12 Pac-10 titles. Arizona (25-6 overall, 14-4 Pac-10) had clinched at least a share by beating Oregon State on Thursday, but Saturday's win finished off its first league title since the 2004-05 season.
“I can't describe the emotions of coaching today's game,” Miller said. “I can't imagine it being any better anywhere.”
It's easy to point at Derrick Williams' extreme progression as the reason Arizona went from 16-15 last season to, at the very least, a 25-win team this season.
But Miller's system of interchangeable parts couldn't have been more clear Saturday after Williams picked up his third and forth fouls early in the game. Steadily improving role players like Kyryl Natyazhko plugged front court while Kyle Fogg torched the Ducks beyond the arc (game-high 20 points).
Last season, Arizona might've choked away a lead to the Ducks' trap-and-press defense. That's why an offseason meeting was needed: to mend the sting from snapping Arizona's prized 25-year NCAA Tournament appearance streak.
“We had a meeting as soon as the season ended (last year),” Williams said. “Our main focus was everyone knowing their role. Nobody wanted to lose anymore. Nobody wants to be known as the team that stopped the streak (of 25 consecutive tournament appearances). We wanted to be known as the team that started a new one.”
The anatomy of a league title isn't much other than a milestone — and definitely not a final destination for a school that still calls itself Point Guard U. It's something to include in the media guide, something to toast to and now something to tweet about.
Especially when they're least expected.