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November 21, 2005It seems like yesterday when Miles Simon was an incoming freshman out of Mater Dei High School. He arrived at Arizona as a 17 year-old from Fullerton, California, having left home for the first time. A few years later, it was Simon who led Arizona to its first-ever national championship, with the lasting image of that night been Simon grasping the game ball with that memorable incandescent smile on his face showing just a glimpse of how euphoric he felt inside after his Most Outstanding Player award -winning performance in Arizona's 84-79 overtime victory over top-seeded Kentucky.
Simon turns 30 Monday or and hopes to enjoy his birthday later Monday night with another Arizona victory over Kansas in the Maui invitational tournament, in which he is now an assistant coach for the Wildcats.
He was a first-team All-American as a senior in 1998 but had a promising NBA career derailed because of injuries, yet he was still very successful as a professional, winning MVP awards in Europe and the CBA before knee injuries forced him to retire from playing last winter.
Simon returned to the University of Arizona to finish his degree and was named assistant coach shortly after graduation this summer. He has already made an impact on the program since joining the staff as a recruiter and as the man in charge of coaching Arizona's talented guards. If the improvement shown by senior Chris Rodgers is any indication, Simon appears to be destined for great things as a coach, especially because he has proven to be a great help in recruiting the likes of Chase Budinger, Alex Jacobson, Jerryd Bayless and numerous other younger prospects for the Wildcats.
The only birthday present Simon cares about today is a victory over Kansas, that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve more. For instance, it's well past time that the University retires his No. 34 Jersey and places it up in the McKale Center rafters high above the floor on which he made it possible for Arizona to be able to paint, "1997 National Champions" in huge red letters along one sideline. In fact, Simon's jersey should hang directly next to the national chairmanship banner as well as a third banner, one which reads, "Miles Simon: Most Outstanding Player, 1997 NCAA Tournament."
Other than Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson, it can be argued that no one has done as much for the Arizona basketball program as Simon has because of the positive exposure he helped bring the program during the title run.
Simon was just 21 the night Arizona won the national championship.
Today he is suddenly 30, with a brand-new house just built on Tucson's Eastside near Udall Park and a beautiful young daughter that he adores.