Arizona regents back move to fire assistant coach Mark Phelps

TUCSON, Ariz. -- After a meeting Thursday morning in Phoenix, the Arizona Board of Regents publicly supported the University of Arizona's decision to fire assistant men's basketball coach Mark Phelps.

Wildcats head coach Sean Miller said after Thursday night's 67-60 loss to Washington that he backed the board's statement, though he declined to answer three of six questions about Phelps or the legal issues surrounding the Arizona program.

"If you guys would like to ask me questions about tonight's game I'll be more than happy to answer, but I'm not going to comment on anything related to off the court," Miller said at the end of his opening statement.

Arizona on Wednesday initiated the process to terminate Phelps, and a day later, 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 in the statement. "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."

Miller said of the board's comments, "I support the statement that went out."

The regents will reconvene for their final day of meetings Friday morning in Tempe, Arizona.

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.

Thursday marked the Wildcats' first game since Phelps' removal.

Afterward, Miller declined to answer questions about whether Arizona would miss Phelps, when he'll be able to comment about the ongoing investigation and what his level of concern was about being subpoenaed to testify in the federal trial.

Arizona junior center Chase Jeter said Phelps' absence "doesn't affect practice," but senior guard Justin Coleman said the Wildcats played for Phelps on Thursday night.

"We love coach Phelps," Coleman said. "He's still part of us as a team. The time he was here, he taught me how to be a better player, a better man. But from now one we just got to push forward, continue to get better."

ESPN reporter Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.