LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — New Nebraska coach Tim Miles is aware that many Big Red fans don’t recognize his name and might feel let down by his hiring.
He said it’s perfectly understandable, considering he spent 12 of his 17 years as a head coach at places like Maywood State, Southwest Minnesota State and North Dakota State before he went to Colorado State five years ago.
“You look at those schools and you don’t know who this guy is,” Miles said Saturday at his introductory news conference. “Husker fans, you give us a chance. We’re going to come through for you. We’ve exceeded expectations everywhere we’ve been, and I intend to continue to do the same.
“We’re dealing with the elite basketball conference in the country, the Big Ten. It’s going to be a blast.”
The 45-year-old Miles is the latest in a string of mid-major coaches who have gone to Nebraska with the hope of turning around a long-struggling program. It hasn’t won a conference championship since 1950 and has never won an NCAA tournament game in six appearances, the last one in 1998.
Miles said many people might look at his hiring as the “same old recipe.” But he’s confident he can succeed where others have failed because Nebraska has upped its commitment to men’s basketball with October’s opening of a new practice facility and the construction of a 16,000-seat arena in downtown Lincoln that opens for the 2013-14 season.
“Bricks and mortar aren’t enough,” he said, “but it’s a big factor.”
Miles this season coached Colorado State to a 20-12 record and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003. The Rams lost to Murray State in their tournament opener.
Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said Miles was among six candidates interviewed. Osborne declined to name the others. Miles’ salary and contract haven’t been finalized.
Osborne said he wasn’t as interested in Miles’ lack of pedigree as he was in his enthusiasm for building the program.
“People talk about how you want to hire a guy who has been to the Final Four,” Osborne said. “The Final Four guy isn’t going to want to come here and put the kind of energy and emotion and personal investment that it’s going to take. You want a guy who is young enough, enthusiastic enough and energetic enough to get over the hump.”
Six-year coach Doc Sadler was fired March 9 after the Huskers went 12-18 and tied for last with Penn State in its first season in the Big Ten.
Colorado State improved each of Miles’ five seasons in Fort Collins. The Rams went from 7-25 his first year to 9-22, 16-16, 19-13 and 20-12.
The 2010-11 season marked CSU’s first winning record in seven years, and its nine conference wins were its most since the Mountain West formed in 1999-2000.
Last May, Miles signed a three-year contract extension through 2015-16. He earned $585,000 this season and was set to be paid $750,000 in 2012-13.
“I said goodbye to a group of guys last night who are special,” said Miles, choking up. “A basketball coach is supposed to be leader, and last night I didn’t feel like much of a leader. You’re telling those guys you’re going to leave them, and it’s hard to do. But Colorado State is much better equipped than in 2007 when I took over that job to be successful, and that team is going to be terrific next year and that program is on the right foot.”
Miles, who grew up in Doland, S.D., took his first head coaching job in 1995 at 1,000-student Mayville State in North Dakota. He went on to Southwest Minnesota State for four years and North Dakota State for six before landing the Colorado State job in 2007.
His immediate goal at Nebraska?
“I want to win an NCAA tournament game,” he said. “Let’s do it. We can do it here, no doubt about it, and we will. It’s just a matter of time.”
Nebraska’s biggest challenge has been recruiting talent good enough to win in the Big 12 and now the Big Ten. Sadler had been criticized for not bringing any of the few in-state Division I prospects to Nebraska. Miles said if a Nebraska kid is good enough, he’ll get a chance to play for the Huskers.
According to media reports, Nebraska had hoped to woo Ohio’s John Groce, the hottest mid-major coach in the land after leading the Bobcats to the NCAA regional semifinals.
Oregon’s Dana Altman, who grew up in Nebraska and coached at Creighton in Omaha, also had been mentioned as a possible candidate.
Other names connected to the job were Oral Roberts’ Scott Sutton and Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Rob Jeter.
“I told Tim yesterday, `You’re going to hear that this program is in shambles.’ It really isn’t,” Osborne said. “There are some things to build on. Obviously, we aren’t in the upper half of the Big Ten, so he has a lot of work to do. But he might have more building blocks than he did at the other places.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)