October 6, 2017

Episode 336: Arizona Basketball Program Faces Scandal as it Enters Season

Also, the Mexican Baseball Fiesta descends on Southern Arizona for 7th year.

The Arizona Men’s basketball program is speaking publicly, but not saying very much about the federal investigation into an assistant coach.

Head coach Sean Miller has stopped attempts to get him to comment further on the FBI arrest of longtime assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson. Next week, Miller and some of his players will be at media day in California for the start of the Pac-12 conference season.

Last Tuesday, FBI agents arrested Richardson at his home in Tucson. The attorney who represented Richardson at his first appearance before a federal judge told Arizona Week the FBI wanted to extradite Richardson to New York and hold him on $100,000 bond.

But that didn’t happen. Richardson posted a $50,000 bond and is due to appear next week in New York.

Some of the charges Richardson faces included bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes, honest services fraud conspiracy, honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and travel act conspiracy.

Richardson had coached at Arizona for seven years. The 44 year old has worked alongside Sean Miller for 11 years.

The FBI is not commenting directly on the investigation. Arizona Week sat down with a public corruption supervisor in the Tucson resident agency of the FBI office, Theo Callimalnis.

This week coach Miller released a statement claiming he had no knowledge of Richardson’s recruiting practices, and said he was “devastated” by the news.

“I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance,” Miller said.

Athletic director Dave Heeke said he was “angered and disheartened,” adding that “with basketball practice underway, I ask that you join me in supporting Sean Miller, the staff, and our student athletes as they work towards the start of the season.”

The UA also released a statement and is standing by its program, saying, “We support coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations.”

For more on the upcoming season and how the team might rebound from the situation, Arizona Week was joined by Steve Rivera — the author of several books on the Arizona basketball program — and Ryan Finley, sports editor at the Arizona Daily Star.

The Mexican Baseball Fiesta is in its seventh year now, a four-day event bringing the Mexican baseball winter league to Southern Arizona, sometimes compared to the major league spring training season in the U.S.

This week there are eight Mexican teams in Southern Arizona, hundreds of players and thousands of fans, breathing new life into the Kino Sports Complex.

The event pumps more than $1 million into Arizona’s economy over the course of three weeks, an organizer says, and more than 1,000 hotel rooms are booked. See a schedule and learn more here.

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