“I’m here to introduce our newest basketball assistant, Armon Gates,” Coach Tim Miles said in the media room at the Devaney Center on Monday afternoon.
After a week of speculation and rumor, Nebraska made the hiring of Gates official, completing Miles’ coaching staff following the departure of Kenya Hunter.
“Armon is a very talented young man that I’ve known for years,” Miles said. “I got to know him through [Loyola-Chicago coach] Porter Moser and I’ve always liked Porter’s guys. Coach [Michael] Lewis lasted with Porter two weeks. Armon’s had an adventurous month, so to speak. I think my greatest concern is he was Under Armour in purple, he was Nike; we’ve got to get him some Adidas red. I’m really excited about Armon and what he brings to the table. He’s a great guy. He’s a guy I’ve known for a long time. High energy, very good with the players, an excellent recruiter especially in the middle of Big Ten territory.”
Gates spent five years at Northwestern before accepting the associate head coaching position at Florida under Mike White. His stint in Gainesville lasted about three weeks.
“It was a big-time whirlwind for me,” Gates said about his last month. “I left Northwestern, ended up going to Florida, went to Florida for about two-and-a-half to three weeks, and I did go to Coach [Mike] White and it was just a feeling that I had and I went to talk to him and asked if I could talk to Coach Miles to join his staff. I reached out to M-Lew [Michael Lewis] and he told me what they were looking for and that’s when I approached Coach White and it’s all history from there.”
Gates further elaborated on the reason for his abrupt departure from Florida.
“It was just a fit,” Gates said. “My family wasn’t even there with me yet. I thought it was a very important time for me to kind of re-evaluate and assess the situation. I went and talked to Coach Mike White after the Dallas evaluation period and again, I saw Mike Lewis out on the road and we were just talking about that spot. Coach Miles, he rubbed off on me in a very positive way when I met with him the first couple times just to talk about Nebraska and that never left.”
Miles’ energy and playfulness appealed to Gates who saw something of himself in Nebraska’s head coach. That coupled with his previous relationship with Lewis made Gates feel like Nebraska was a better fit than Florida.
“I’m extremely excited to be a part of Husker Nation,” Gates said. “Coach Miles has an unbelievable reputation, not only nationally but obviously in the Big Ten. Our staff [at Northwestern] was really good friends with Nebraska’s staff — obviously I’m now part of that. M-Lew, we were on staff together at Loyola-Chicago for about two weeks and then I ran him out of town; couldn’t stand the guy. I think it’s going to be a great fit for me.”
Miles’ search for a new assistant began on April 9, the day after Gates accepted the position at Florida. Despite the important live evaluation periods that happen during April, Miles was determined to take his time and do his due diligence.
“You know how it is, I have conversations with guys,” Miles said about the search. “I’d say I probably had conversations or was in contact pretty consistently with about four or five guys. I like to see how things are going to develop in the search sometimes. For instance, if I had hopped to it and I would have hired someone, Armon wouldn’t have been the guy; he would have just been starting at Florida day one when I probably would have hired if I had gotten right to it. If you can let things develop and just let time kind of go, but there were some outstanding guys, really. You can see the level of attention — I always feel better about my program, you lose a guy and then to see what type of attention you attract, and it was a high-grade level of attention.”
Gates wasn’t initially on the list, but after he emerged as a candidate he quickly rose to the top of the list for Miles, who sees the opportunity as a great one both for Nebraska and for Gates to continue adding to his resume.
“Armon was a guy that has always been on our radar,” Miles said. “I couldn’t hire him when he went to Northwestern, of course, and they had such a good thing going. Just by good fortune, when Armon had reached out to Michael and was talking about fit, the Big Ten is a great fit for him. It’s good, yeah he’s in Chicago with Northwestern, but it’s good to also be out and I think that will help him grow and develop. I think we’ve done a good job placing guys as head coaches and getting guys interviews as head coaches and that’s another thing I know he would like to be in the future, and I like guys like that. You talk about a good reputation, Armon is an exciting addition for us.”
Before making the deal official, both Gates and Miles reached out to Chris Collins at Northwestern.
“Talking with Coach Collins the other day, I called him and told him that I accepted the job just to get his blessing, because it’s not normal to go from one Big Ten institution to the next,” Gates said. “Coach signed off on everything. He knows I’m with good people. He loves Coach Miles and his staff. Brian James on their staff is very good friends with Coach Mo [Jim Molinari]. There’s connections there.”
With Miles’ extension in hand and his staff now complete, the next step for the program — outside of continuing to recruit — is for James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland to complete their pre-draft process and decide whether or not to return to Nebraska. The deadline is May 30.