NCAA Tournament Interviews: Arizona's Miles Simon

    
March 18th, 2012
Recently CHN writer Jon Teitel was able to catch up with Miles Simon, one of the heroes of Arizona's 1997 national championship team. Names MOP of that tournament, Simon is now a color commentator for ESPN. This month he's teaming up this year with Allstate (a new corporate partner of the NCAA), and their "Team Mayhem" (comprised of some past tournament heroes like Dereck Whittenburg and Joey Rodriguez) will be attending the Final Four at "Bracket Town".

Jon Teitel: You played at Arizona for Hall Of Fame coach Lute Olson. What made him such a great coach?

Miles Simon: He was a player's coach as far as game preparation and letting us play. He did not put too many restrictions on us on the court and let us figure out things ourselves.

JT: What are your memories of the 1996 NCAA tournament (Simon scored 21 points in a three-point loss to Kansas, who was led by Paul Pierce with 20 points)?

MS: I helped too much and Jerod Haase hit a late three in the corner that I felt led to the loss. We should have won that game.

1997 NCAA Tournament

JT: You scored 17 points in a three-point win over 1-seed Kansas (Pierce had 27 points and 11 rebounds). What was going through your mind as Billy Thomas, Ryan Robertson and Raef LaFrentz all missed 3-pointers in the final seconds?

MS: We were just trying to hold on for the win after building a big lead in the second half. They got hot toward the end and made a run (as often happens in the tournament), so we were just hoping that none of them went in and that we could rebound one of their misses.

JT: You tied a career-high with 30 points in a four-point overtime win over Providence. What did Coach Olson say to your team going into overtime after blowing a seven-point lead with 1:15 left in regulation?

MS: He just asked us who the toughest team was because whoever was going to be tougher was going to win.

JT: You scored 24 points in an eight-point win over 1-seed North Carolina (Antawn Jamison had 18 points and 11 rebounds). Where does freshman Mike Bibby's four 3-pointers in a five-minute span in the second half rank among the best shooting streaks you have ever seen?

MS: It was one of the all-time clutch moments in NCAA tournament history for a freshman to come up big on the biggest stage in a tight game. He worked on his shot on a daily basis just so he could have a moment like that.

JT: You scored 30 points (14-17 FT) and were named tournament MOP after a five-point overtime win over 1-seed and defending champion Kentucky (becoming the first team to ever beat 3 1-seeds en route to winning it all). What did it mean to you to win the title?

MS: It was the most special time of my life. I grew up as a big fan of the Final Four and got to attend many Final Four games with my father, so to play before 47,000 people with all my family there and to win one for Lute was very special.

JT: What are your memories of the 1998 NCAA tournament (Andre Miller had the sixth triple-double in tournament history [18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists] in a 25-point win by eventual national runner-up Utah)?

MS: Triangle-and-2 is the key phrase. Utah coach Rick Majerus came out with a junk defense and dared us to get him out of it, and we just could not do it. Miller had been good that season, but we really put him on the map with that game. All the credit goes to Utah.

JT: What are your memories of the 2006 NCAA tournament as an assistant at Arizona (Randy Foye scored 24 points in four-point Villanova win in Philly)?

MS: Home-court advantage. We matched their 4-guard attack really well but it was tough for us to play them in Philly. If we had played them in a neutral setting I think we would have beaten them.

JT: In 2008 you coached LA's Pump 'N' Run Elite senior team which included current New Mexico point guard Kendall Williams (2011 Mountain West Rookie of the Year). How did he look on Thursday in a 16-point performance against The Beach?

MS: Kendall has had a very good career so far. He originally committed to UCLA, but is fitting in very well with Steve Alford at New Mexico. He hit a big shot down the stretch late Thursday and I am very happy for him.

JT: Arizona made the NCAA tournament for 25 straight years from 1985-2009, but has missed out twice in past three years. Do you think that brining in a pair of McDonald's All-Americans (Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett) next year will put them back in the tournament?

MS: It will be a huge difference, as Arizona had no inside presence this year in terms of a back to the basket player. Grant can extend out to the perimeter, and Brandon is a tremendous athlete.