Nebraska basketball is on to its next new era right on schedule.
That's not a comment on the validity of Nebraska's decision to move on from Tim Miles after seven seasons, but one on the history of the job that's now open in his absence. Over the last (nearly) 40 years, the men's basketball job at Nebraska has been about a six-year gig.
Moe Iba (1980–86), Barry Collier (2000–06) and Doc Sadler (2007–12) were all there for six seasons. Miles got a seventh. Danny Nee got 14 seasons and, not unrelated, has the most wins in school history (tied with Joe Cipriano, who coached from 1967 to 1980). Post-Cipriano, if you're a .500-ish coach at Nebraska you'll get a half-dozen seasons to figure it out.
Miles' time at Nebraska, in terms of length and record, feels like it was cut from the same cloth. And in a brass-tacks, just-the-facts sense, it was.
But Jacob Padilla's excellent column on the end of Miles' tenure, while identifying some key reasons why this coaching run ended up like the two before it, also underscored for me a key reason it was a little bit different.
Speaking of the Vault, Miles was at the helm of the men’s program as the basketball programs moved into their new digs and played a large part in firing up the fan base and filling the place. Miles is a master of playing the PR game and did an outstanding job putting the Huskers on the map both locally and nationally. His personality drew fans in and his quirkiness appealed to national media types who might otherwise not have spent much time thinking about Nebraska based on its history.
Miles never quite figured out how to build Nebraska into a consistent winner, but he’s leaving the program in a good place. The facilities and fan support are top-notch, and the cupboard is not completely bare depending on who the next coach can convince to stick around in addition to who he can add to the program.
Moos, in his press conference yesterday, did little in my mind to chase anyone off the idea that the guy everyone thinks will take this job is his top guy for the job. And if Fred Hoiberg does come to Nebraska and does what he did at Iowa State––never a safe assumption, but the one that's sort of at the heart of almost any coaching hire––I wonder if what Jacob is talking about with Miles above doesn't become the lasting memory of his time in Lincoln.
Record aside, he was sort of the perfect coach at the perfect time to build attention for a program that had most often been middle-of-the-road. He had small-town charm and basketball geek-chic, a tough combo to pull off. (The playbook there appears to be to talk about KenPom and Coors Light in equal measure.) The national media loved Miles because he was a great guy to talk hoops with and that kept Nebraska basketball in the discussion when its record probably wouldn't have merited that kind of coverage.
Add that to some external factors like moving to a beautiful new downtown arena and becoming not the new guy in the Big Ten, but a regular member of the conference (where almost every game each season was available to watch) and you have something of a profile-building perfect storm. Miles steered straight into that in a way few could.
As Nebraska goes off in the search of its next coach, it leaves the Huskers' program in a pretty good spot. And if that next coach elevates the one part Miles couldn't––a history of being .500––that success likely reframes the last seven years.
No matter what happens next for Nebraska basketball, Miles will be remembered fondly. There's no question there.
But if things go even bigger in the years ahead, that will burnish his legacy in Lincoln. Should the Huskers take a step beyond what Miles was able to do and that era starts to look like an important precursor to current success, he'll never have to buy his own Coors Light in the Cornhusker State again.
The Grab Bag
- Here’s how the reaction to the Miles’ news shook out on Twitter.
- Derek Peterson with a good recap on the Moos press conference on Tuesday.
- Nebraska baseball beat Creighton last night to keep its winning streak going.
- Great Husker Attic here from Mike Babcock highlighting the (beautiful) Nebraska-Notre Dame program from 1925.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.