If Fred Hoiberg is Nebraska’s next head basketball coach, which remains a strong possibility, Athletic Director Bill Moos wasn’t ready to admit to it just yet Tuesday afternoon.
Moos made the decision mid-day Tuesday to fire Tim Miles after seven seasons in Lincoln and a 116-114 record. That conversation, Moos said during a press conference Tuesday evening, was cordial and short. Moos told the coach he appreciated his passion, energy and integrity, but the level of play on the basketball court wasn’t up to his standard.
“People say, ‘Why Nebraska?’ I say, ‘Why not?’” Moos said. “The No. 1 objective and goal here at the University of Nebraska, under my leadership, is to win a Big Ten conference championship, in all of our sports. If you do that, you’re going to be just fine in the postseason. I want to compete in this conference.”
After last year’s 22-11 campaign in which the Huskers finished fourth in the Big Ten but failed to make the NCAA Tournament, Moos told Miles he wanted consistency and stability. When Miles was given a one-year contract extension before the season, Moos made a note of the 2014-15 Nebraska basketball team. A year removed from Miles’ only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2013, Nebraska began the season ranked and floundered to a 13-18 finish.
“In 2014, a really good season with some really good players coming back, it didn’t pan out,” Moos said. “Basically in the end it didn’t pan out this year either.”
Moos did not entertain the idea of firing Miles after the Big Ten tournament ended with a loss to Wisconsin. The players were rallying and Moos didn’t want to interrupt what was happening. Since his arrival in Lincoln, Moos has held fast to his standard of letting coaches finish their seasons. “What would that accomplish?” he asks to anyone that says he should do things differently.
And Moos says he would not have done anything differently over the last several weeks. Despite what national pundits say was a “disgraceful” handling of the situation, Tim Miles coached, Bill Moos stayed out of the way, Nebraska’s season ended and Miles was informed he wouldn’t be retained. Standard operating procedure.
When Miles left Memorial Stadium after his meeting with Moos, he gave a brief statement to reporters, but left things on positive terms. “Now's the time for the future,” he said. “I'm the past.” He thanked the program and its fans, got in his wife’s Infinity (joking he left his car back home to fool media) and left for home.
Now, Nebraska turns its attention to the next coach.
The timeline for finding that next coach, Moos says, is seven to 14 days, saying it likely won’t exceed that window and he’d be surprised if a move was made sooner. He has “three to four” coaches he’s had exploratory conversations with, including Hoiberg, but didn’t reveal any other names and said he couldn’t give a “true answer” about Hoiberg’s interest level.
Hoiberg’s son is a walk-on for Tom Izzo at Michigan State and the Spartans play LSU in the Sweet 16 on Friday. A loss ends the season, obviously, while a win would put the Spartans in an Elite Eight game on Sunday. Reading tea leaves, that fits nicely into Moos’ timeline.
The boss also knows exactly what he wants in his next head coach.
“To entertain the fanbase while you’re building the program,” he said. And he doesn’t mean the kind of entertaining Miles was beloved for. Moos said he believes in a defensive-minded identity, but to compete in today’s game, the offense needs to be like the one that takes the field Saturdays inside Memorial Stadium.
“We’ve got to get the ball out, we’ve got to be scoring, I like to shoot the 3,” he said. “Play with some discipline, of course, but the game today, and the ones that are winning it, are lighting that scoreboard up. That’s something that we’ll certainly be looking for.”
In seven seasons, Miles never fielded a top-100 offense by offensive rating (points per 100 possessions). Thirteen of this season’s Sweet 16 teams ranked in the top 50 by offensive rating. Ten of them reside in the top 25.
Recruiting is also a major factor for Moos. He mentioned on several occasions Nebraska’s next coach would need to be proven in that area already, not looking to make their mark. “Whoever gets this job is going to be a known, successful recruiter,” he said. “That’s extremely important in all of our sports.”
Miles has a strong 2019 class built already, with JUCO guard Jervay Green, 3-star Creighton Prep wing Akol Arop and 3-star guard Mika Adams-Woods already signed to letters of intent. Moos said it would be important to keep that class together. But Miles’ best recruiting class in his time at Nebraska still fell outside the top-25 in 247Sports’ team rankings.
The transfer market was a key tool for Miles in roster construction. Hoiberg’s best Iowa State teams were built on transfers as well.
“In a perfect world, it’s the four-year player, but times have changed and if we’re going to compete, we’re going to have to look at the transfer situation,” Moos said. “As long as the transfer situation is the way it is, we’ve got to take advantage of it. In my feeling, it’s not ideal, but it’s the way the basketball world is right now. So, we’ve got to step in and compete with that.”
Moos played coy on the Hoiberg rumors during most of his time at the podium. “I haven’t had any deep-dish pizza in Chicago if that’s what you’re wanting to know,” he joked at one point. But signs seem to point in one direction, and Moos’ wish list of coaching qualities (and his admitted acceptance of roster building through the transfer marker) have a common denominator.
Nebraska wants a proven winner at the major college level. Hoiberg went to four NCAA tournaments in five seasons at Iowa State and won two Big 12 championships. Moos wants a strong offensive system. The only time Hoiberg’s Cyclone teams posted an offensive rating outside the top-50 nationally was in his first year (No. 119 in 2010-11, he averaged out at No. 47 in five years). Above everything, Nebraska wants a coach that can sustain success.
“We can move this program up to consistently competing in the Big Ten.”
Other News and Notes
>> Moos says he met with the Husker coaching staff after senior forward Isaac Copeland was lost to injury to “ease them a little bit.” There was a narrative put forth that Miles didn’t have enough support within the athletic department, a narrative Moos does not agree with.
“Our budget was competitive, our salaries were competitive, and again, I’m talking in the Big Ten, which is how I’m gauging things,” Moos said. “We chartered aircraft for team travel, for recruiting. Our recruiting budget is one of the highest in the Big Ten, and it may be because of where we’re located but that’s OK.
“Administratively, Marc Boehm has done a great job to represent me. The head coach answers to me, but on a daily basis, when they need answers, Marc got those for them. I can’t imagine anything that they may have needed or wanted that they weren’t getting.”
>> Moos will name an interim coach soon, choosing from the three Husker assistants, much like he named Trent Bray the football team’s interim coach after firing Mike Riley in 2017. He has not met with the team, but plans to do so and have individual conversations with each of the Husker assistants.
Retention of anyone on Miles’ staff will be up to the new coach.
>> It doesn’t appear salary will be a barrier to finding the right coach.
“We can be competitive,” Moos said. “We have a program that is solvent. We have the ability to pay going rates for top coaches. I think we’ve already shown that in some of the hires that have already been made.”
Moos thinks Nebraska has all the necessary resources to attract a high-level coach. He called Pinnacle Bank Arena one of the best venues in the country on multiple occasions, praised the fanbase’s support and cited Nebraska’s consistently-high attendance marks and said the Hendricks Training Complex was top-notch.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.