Arizona's Miller receives strong backing from AD

Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke voiced strong support for coach Sean Miller and his men’s basketball program Saturday night in the wake of the school’s move earlier in the week to fire assistant coach Mark Phelps.

Heeke, speaking to reporters at halftime of the Wildcats’ 69-55 loss to visiting Washington State, wouldn’t talk about the Phelps case or any other issues related to a possible NCAA investigation.

“We’re fully supportive of the coaching staff, the leadership of the basketball program,” Heeke said. “We’re supporting, as I have said before, we support Coach Miller. Those things that have been said to the contrary to that are not true.”

Arizona on Wednesday initiated the process to terminate Phelps, and on Thursday, board of regents chair Ron Shoopman said in a statement that the school removed Phelps “following due process provided in policy.”

“The board is confident this decision was made to ensure the utmost integrity and highest standards in the UA men’s basketball program,” Shoopman said. “As the governing body of Arizona’s public universities, the board is committed to doing everything possible to uphold the excellence and quality of the institutions we oversee, including the athletic programs at the universities.”

Phelps’ attorney, Donald Maurice Jackson, of Montgomery, Alabama, said Phelps was removed because of an alleged NCAA rules violation.

The school said Wednesday in a statement that Phelps’ removal was “not related to the federal criminal proceedings in New York or the NCAA’s review of the facts underlying the allegations of unlawful conduct.”

Sources told ESPN that Phelps is accused of a violation regarding former Arizona recruit Shareef O’Neal‘s academic transcripts. O’Neal, the son of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, committed to the Wildcats in 2017 before signing with UCLA. O’Neal sat out this season because of a heart condition.

Phelps, in his fourth season on Arizona’s staff, denies wrongdoing and has cooperated with university and NCAA investigators, Jackson told ESPN.

Information from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Josh Weinfuss and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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