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Coach Battle: Dana Altman vs Sean Miller

The last five Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors belong to these two men

California v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

No. 5 Oregon faces No. 7 Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament Final on Saturday night from T-Mobile Arena. Dana Altman and Sean Miller have led their respective teams to identical records of 29-4. Something has to give in their highly-anticipated rematch.

Altman is the second-most successful coach in Oregon history. Sean Miller is the reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Yet, his Wildcats are the No. 2 seed in this Pac-12 Tournament after losing to UO by 27 in Eugene, 85-58. These two are the ultimate competitors, but they do it in vastly different manners.

The Oregon head coach is highly dignified and respected throughout college basketball. Anyone who knows Altman, loves the way he handles his team and family responsibilities. Humbly modest to a fault, Altman NEVER talks about himself or his coaching accomplishments, leave that to us.

For his Oregon career, he has a sterling record of 183-68 in 251 career games. Not to mention, UO’s current winning percentage of .879 is the highest in program history. Altman coached teams have earned a winning record in 20 consecutive seasons.

Over his unheralded career, Altman is 593-311 in 904 career games as a head coach. His 593 victories rank No. 38 all-time in college basketball coaching.

Altman had won the previous three of four Pac-12 Coach of the Year Awards, and was seeking his fourth in five this season.

Arizona’s lead man however, is the exact opposite of Altman from a personality standpoint. The former Xavier head coach is a fiery clone of John Belushi, routinely teetering on the verge of a meltdown. His antics on Friday evening against No. 3 UCLA illustrated a classless brand of basketball.

Colorado v Arizona
Sean Miller has led his Arizona team to an identical 29-4 record like Oregon. Miler is 217-65 with the Wildcats in his 282 career games. U of A is looking for their second tournament title in the last three years.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

If you weren't watching the game, nearing the midnight hour on west coast, we forgive you. That’s why we’re here. Arizona was up 11 points with the clock winding down. Suddenly, the game stopped with 0.9 seconds left. Everyone in the arena was confused, except for the Arizona bench.

As his players were laughing and slapping him on the back, Miller had called a timeout. Apparently, this was in retaliation of UCLA’s Steve Alford pulling a similar move in their previous meeting. Really? Instead of just ignoring Alford’s actions, he made more of it than what it was. Not to mention, Miller illustrated his true character.

If you missed it, the VIDEO is posted at the bottom of this page...

You can clearly see that Alford had a few “choice” words for Miller. He was confused and not happy about it one bit. Miller on the other hand, seemed delighted with his move. Some of those UCLA players were not feeling those handshakes from the Arizona coach.

Then there is Dana Altman, what a breath of fresh air from that nonsense. Altman is known for rarely losing his cool on the sideline during a contest. It is almost spiritual the way he rises above adversity of any single moment in a game. Yet, Friday’s contest against the No. 5 seed Cal was the outlier.

As you know, the officiating of No. 1 seed Oregon vs the Golden Bears on Friday was repulsive. The referees literally took the game into their own hands, slowing down momentum and basic tempo with their whistles. It was borderline assault upon the fans who attended.

Slowly, one could see Altman starting to seethe with rage. Foul after foul, with no Duck in sight. Finally, he snapped. And, it was worth it!

Altman was screaming up and down the sideline, yelling at anyone who would make eye contact with him. The officials and players were almost stunned to see the normally stoic or somber coach explode.

Altman has always said he doesn’t subscribe to reacting on the sideline or yelling at officials. He believes that gives credence to his players to “make excuses” if they lose that game.

Officiating has been called into question this college basketball season though. It definitely reared its ugly head in all four of Oregon’s losses in 2016-17.

At one point, the Ducks had seven foul calls against them (four on one possession) to California’s zero fouls, zero. After his expressive moment, the officials began calling it both ways. It was impossible to gain rhythm, but all that matters is UO escaped with the victory.

Arizona State v Oregon
Dana Altman was uncharacteristically vocal with officials on Friday night in the Pac-12 semifinal against Cal. Over his Duck career, Altman has led Oregon to an impressive 183-68 record, with a winning percentage of 73 over that time.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Saturday night, the two leaders of their family will try to make history.

No. 1 seed Oregon has appeared in four of the last five Pac-12 Tournament Championship’s. Altman and the Ducks are seeking back-to-back tournament titles. UO slipped by Arizona in the Pac-12 semifinal last season. It was an overtime thriller. Altman has won the tournament final twice with the Webfoots.

Meanwhile, No. 2 seed Arizona is seeking their second tournament title in the last three years. Their last occurred during the 2014-15 season when they won the regular season and postseason tournament. The Wildcats were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16.

No. 5 Oregon (29-4) vs No. 7 Arizona (29-4) will dictate a ton in the NCAA Tournament seeding. The winner could grab a No. 2 or even No. 1 seed. Both teams want this opportunity at hardware, because you never know when you will get it again.

The anticipated rematch will tip at 8:00 p.m. PT from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. You can catch the game on ESPN or the Watch ESPN app. The rest of the country may be asleep with the late-start, but nobody over here is sleeping on these two juggernauts.


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