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Sean Miller 'very emotional' after Arizona fans' standing ovation

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Miller receives ovation before opening tip (0:22)

Arizona fans show coach Sean Miller support with a standing ovation in his return from a one-game absence. (0:22)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- As thousands of fans at the McKale Center rose and cheered for Arizona coach Sean Miller before the start of Thursday night's game against Stanford, Miller looked around the arena and absorbed the atmosphere.

His roller coaster of a week started Feb. 23, when an ESPN report tied him to an alleged pay-for-play scheme, and continued the next day, when he wasn't on the bench to coach his team in an overtime loss to Oregon.

The week ended with his school president publicly backing him and announcing his return to the squad Thursday.

"I really didn't know what to think about it other than it was very, very emotional," Miller said about the standing ovation he received before Arizona's 75-67 victory over Stanford, a win that sealed a share of the Pac-12 title. "Tucson and our fans, they've always been the very, very best to my family and myself and have supported our basketball program like no other. And to see them do that is very emotional and something I'll never, ever forget."

ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported last week that an FBI wiretap intercepted conversations between Miller and Christian Dawkins -- a runner for ASM Sports and key figure in the FBI's investigation into charges of college basketball corruption -- in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to secure the services of star freshman Deandre Ayton.

The Wildcats released a statement the next day saying it was in the "best interest" of all parties for Miller to miss Arizona's game against Oregon.

On Thursday, Miller vehemently denied the allegations in the ESPN report. He called the report "defamatory" and said he has never discussed a payment for a player with Dawkins or anyone else in his career.

President Robert Robbins and the Arizona board of regents both released statements in support of Miller.

Ayton's family attorney has also denied that the freshman accepted a payment from any source and said the projected top-three pick "couldn't pick [Dawkins] out of a lineup" because he'd never met him. Paul V. Kelly, Arizona's outside counsel, said Ayton has been interviewed by the FBI and NCAA officials this season, interviews that failed to produce "a shred of evidence" that would compromise his eligibility.

ESPN stands by its reporting.

Senior Dusan Ristic said he had never seen Miller as happy as he was when he rejoined the team Thursday, the same day star Allonzo Trier was reinstated after a brief absence due to a positive test for a banned substance. School officials said Trier had unknowingly ingested the substance two years ago, and trace amounts were what caused a positive test in January. Trier won his appeal.

But players weren't certain Miller would come back this season before Thursday.

Ristic, who set the school record for career wins on Thursday with 111, said he wondered if Miller would be on the sideline for Saturday's senior night game.

"Yeah, I thought about it, and I was sad," Ristic said. "I didn't know what to expect. Coach Miller is somebody who was my coach for the past four years. I've been through a lot of positive and negative things with him here. I grew as a player on the court and off the court. If he wasn't on the sidelines today or Saturday, I think it would affect me a lot because that's a highly emotional thing."

Ristic said the past week has made the team stronger.

"I think we can flip the story," Ristic said. "We can make a run in the tournament. We can change a whole situation. Two days ago, everyone was against us. The whole nation, even some of you guys were against us. We're going to use that as motivation."

Archie Miller, Sean's younger brother and the head coach at Indiana, said he didn't have any thoughts to share with the public about the current situation at Arizona after his Hoosiers lost in the Big Ten tournament Thursday night.

"No thoughts at all about what's going on out there," Archie Miller said. "He is my brother. That's big. That's my family. Anything that's discussed with him about us is about family and stays within that. No thoughts on what's going on other than thinking about them."

Just before the final buzzer Thursday, fans at McKale Center began to chant, "We love Mil-ler! We love Mil-ler! We love Mil-ler!"

"Tomorrow's a new day," Sean Miller said after Thursday's win, "and what comes about, we have to be able to handle and do things right and be prepared."

ESPN's Dan Murphy contributed to this report.