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Sean Miller rebukes ESPN, says he'll continue to coach Arizona

In a statement he read Thursday, embattled Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller assailed an ESPN report from last week alleging that a federal wiretap caught him discussing paying star recruit Deandre Ayton $100,000 to attend Arizona, and said he intends to coach the Wildcats going forward.

Miller has the support of Arizona president Robert Robbins and the Arizona Board of Regents, at least for the time being. The school issued a joint statement from Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke later on Thursday saying Miller will remain coach.

Miller read a prepared statement that said in part, “I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program.” Miller said he has never paid a player or directed payment to a player. Miller called reports that he told ASM Sports Agency employee Christian Dawkins about payments for Ayton “inaccurate, false and defamatory.” ESPN has since issued corrections in regards to the report.

Miller acknowledged that he had one conversation with someone soliciting money in exchange for a player attending Arizona, but did not disclose the identity of the player, the person he spoke with or the time frame for that discussion.

“I did not agree to it,” Miller said. “It never happened and that player did not come to the University of Arizona.”

Sean Miller rebuked an ESPN report that he’d allegedly offered payment for Deandre Ayton to attend Arizona. (AP)

Miller also indicated that he intended on coaching Arizona on Thursday night against Stanford, and beyond.

“I look forward to coaching this outstanding team,” he said.

Miller did not answer questions after reading his statement.

Via spokeswoman Keri Potts, ESPN says it stands by its reporting.

Miller did not coach Arizona’s game last Saturday at Oregon after media reports last week further implicated him and his staff in the federal probe. Yahoo Sports reported Friday that documents linked Dawkins with Arizona assistants Joe Pasternack and Emanuel “Book” Richardson in alleged attempts to broker deals for players. Dawkins emails alleged that Pasternack and Richardson could be conduits for Arizona players to become ASM clients — particularly 2016-17 player Lauri Markkanen and current player Rawle Alkins. In exchange, Dawkins’ emails say he could direct five-star recruit Brian Bowen to Arizona.

Richardson was fired last month by Arizona. He had been arrested in September and hit with bribery, conspiracy and fraud charges in the U.S. Attorney’s basketball probe.

The Wildcats (22-7 on the year, a Pac-12-leading 12-4 in conference play) host Stanford on Thursday night and then close the regular season Saturday against California.

The 7-foot-1 Ayton, widely projected as a top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, leads Arizona in scoring (19.9 points per game), rebounding (11.2) and blocked shots (2.0).

The Wildcats are without No. 2 scorer Allonzo Trier, who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug for the second time in his college career and was suspended by the NCAA this week. Arizona is appealing the ruling, arguing that the presence of the steroid Ostarine in Trier’s urine sample was simply a residual trace from when he originally and unwittingly ingested it in 2016. Drug-testing experts have questioned that explanation for Trier’s positive test.

(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect Arizona’s statement on keeping Miller as its coach.)

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