Perhaps nobody in basketball has the perspective on Fred Hoiberg at Nebraska that Doc Sadler has. Now the head coach at Southern Miss, Sadler spent six seasons on the sidelines in Lincoln as the Huskers' head coach from 2006 to 2012. When Nebraska made the decision to go a different direction after the 2011–12 season, Sadler headed east to Ames and spent two years on Hoiberg's staff at Iowa State.
"I'm one of the fortunate ones to have coached at Nebraska and probably, I guess, the only that coached at Nebraska and worked for Fred," Sadler said in an interview Wednesday with Chris Schmidt of Hail Varsity Radio. "I just think it's a win-win situation."
Sadler went 101–89 as coach of the Huskers. A well-liked figure, Nebraska went to three NITs during that stretch but never quite got over the hump to the NCAA tournament and, most importantly to Husker fans, the program's first win there.
The weight of that zero in the win column is still there today, as it was when Sadler coached in Lincoln, but he doesn't view it as a sign that Husker hoops has a ceiling.
"The question has always been asked, 'Can you do it?' 'Can it be done at Nebraska?' I always thought that you could do it at Nebraska," Sadler said. "I do think that things have changed over the last few years."
The biggest change? Facilities, a factor Hoiberg mentioned multiple times at his introductory press conference. The Hendricks Training Complex opened in October 2011, the fall of Sadler's final season. The university had broken ground on Pinnacle Bank Arena a month earlier, but it wasn't finished until 2013. Those two facilities combined helped reinvent Nebraska basketball. When you add unparalleled fan support on top of it, you have a very different program from the one Sadler led less than a decade ago.
"In the summer time I get the chance to talk to coaches," Sadler said "Bo Ryan, the former coach at Wisconsin, [John] Beilein at Michigan, Tom Izzo, they have all told me that facility, Pinnacle Bank Arena, is maybe the best place in the league to play. And the toughest place in the league. The first and foremost thing is you have to have a home-court advantage, and it looks like they do."
With so much of the infrastructure in place, the job in front of Hoiberg should be pretty clear––recruit and win. He did both of those things at Iowa State.
"If he's going to have success there it's going to be on the recruiting trail because there's not going to be anybody that's going to out-coach him," Sadler said. "He truly is offensively, in my opinion, one of the best minds that's in basketball, professionally or collegiately."
Hear the full interview with Sadler, including what he told Hoiberg about the Nebraska job, on Hail Varsity Radio today from 4 to 6 p.m.