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Fully aware that legions of self-appointed pundits out there have their own critically personal opinions about who’s the right man to lead the Nebraska men’s basketball program into the Huskers’ new Pinnacle Bank Arena home in 18 months or so, let me go on record to express my own. Former Colorado State Coach Tim Miles, 45, is the right man at the right time for Nebraska for one very simple reason: He mirrors almost every competitive leadership principle of the man who hired him – Tom Osborne. Nebraska’s Hall-of-Fame football coach and fifth-year athletic director knew precisely what he was looking for in a head basketball coach, and Miles puts more exclamation points than check marks in every box that Osborne considers crucial. With that in mind, here are 10 reasons why Miles is the right man to take Nebraska to the next level:
#1 He believes in goals and process
“I love coaching basketball,” Miles said. “I love working with people. I love competition. I love winning. If you’re not trying to get better every day in every way in your life, you’re settling for less. We try to hold ourselves accountable.” Miles is a classic goal-setter. At Colorado State, his goal was to build a nationally known college basketball program that could make the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis. His junior-laden team made the NCAA Tournament this year, and he leaves a wealth of talent behind in Ft. Collins to his successor. At Nebraska, one word will change in that goal. “Make” the NCAA Tournament will be replaced by “Win” a game once you get there – something that, unfortunately, never has happened in Nebraska basketball history. As a Big Ten Conference team, Nebraska’s expectations will never go below that goal.
#2 He places a premium on recruiting
Make no mistake. Osborne and Marc Boehm, Nebraska’s executive associate athletic director in charge of basketball, went into this national coaching search with a keen eye on the candidates’ ability to recruit. In his first four stops – Mayville State, Southwest Minnesota State, North Dakota State and Colorado State – Miles has proven himself to be a fine judge of character. A year ago, he accelerated the stakes, hiring Ron Coleman as his recruiting coordinator. Coleman has been head coach of Chicago’s AAU Mac Irvin Fire, developing the squad into one of the nation’s top AAU programs with four McDonald’s All-Americans, four Illinois Players of the Year and 15 players who have participated in the NBA’s Top 100 camp and the LeBron James Skills Academy. He’s also been a highly successful prep coach in Chicago and has national connections galore.
#3 He’s a very savvy social media man
Every coach knows the value of social media, but few are willing to take the time to learn the skills and use them to their advantage. Even though Osborne is hardly a fan of this particular communications art, Nebraska’s AD knows the positive impact social media can have, and the man he just hired has been described as “the mastermind of the Tweet” by a Mountain West Conference media relations employee. “It’s been good for us in terms of national attention ... it really has,” Miles said. “Twitter and all the things that go with being on Twitter have really been fun for our program.” It’s been so fun that Miles even tweeted during halftime when his team was leading 30-1 Murray State in the NCAA Tournament. “Win the half, we’ll win the game,” he tweeted. It didn’t happen.
#4 He’s as competitive as Darin Erstad
Nebraska Baseball Coach Darin Erstad is a North Dakota native and wants to play every great baseball team willing to play the Huskers, at home or anywhere else. Ditto for South Dakota native Tim Miles, who yearns to play any non-conference power that might be willing to risk getting upset. At North Dakota State, Miles-coached teams upset #8 Marquette and shocked #13 Wisconsin, ending the Badgers’ 27-game home winning streak. At Colorado State, he personally set up games so his team could experience playing at Duke (3½ months ago), playing Kansas at the Sprint Center in Kansas City a year earlier, and playing at UCLA the year before that. Miles was so intent to put North Dakota State on the map, he tried to schedule Texas Tech when Bobby Knight was most likely to set the all-time record for wins. At his team’s NCAA Tournament Press Conference, he even wondered how much Colorado State would have to pay for such publicity. He tweets for fans, for fun and for recruiting.
#5 His teams know how to fight uphill
Let’s not kid ourselves. Nebraska is facing a monumental task to gain respect and credibility, and Osborne wanted a leader who knew how to start from the bottom and work his way up. Miles' first team at Colorado State was 7-25 and winless in the Mountain West Conference, leaving no choice but to clean house. This season – the kind of time it takes to turn something that was upside down right-side up – CSU came full circle. The Rams won 14 of 15 home games and posted their first undefeated conference home season in 51 years. They also earned their first NCAA bid in nine years. They beat three nationally ranked teams – UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. We also should mention they swept their state, beating Pac-12 Tournament champion Colorado – that school down the road – as well as Northern Colorado, Denver and Air Force.
#6 He values, respects and enjoys fans
As much as Miles loves coaching basketball, he considers paying fans an equally important part of his job. “We have a great fan base and a loyal fan base,” Miles said in a video on the CSU website. “We want Moby Madness.” Well, guess what? Miles inherits another great/loyal fan base that will embrace a coach with the background and the skill sets to repair and rebuild the roster, re-energize and reinforce the fan base and restore the confidence among those who quit coming to home games. Husker fans are going to get all of that and more when Miles and his carefully picked staff roll into Lincoln. Nebraska is making a big commitment not only to its new head coach, but also enabling him to hire a talented coaching staff that can hit the recruiting ground running.
#7 He puts the ‘student’ before ‘athlete’
Never underestimate how important this fact is. Osborne has based his entire career on this fundamental principle. “It’s essential that our players realize the value of their education at CSU,” Miles said. “Academics is our top priority. We want to represent this program, this university and this community in a first-class manner at all times. We want to make sure all of our guys have a game plan for life, not just basketball.” Boehm said Miles “was blown away” Friday after visiting Nebraska’s basketball practice facility and the Student-Athlete Center. “Nebraska’s like the Biltmore. Everywhere you go, everything’s just perfect,” Miles told Osborne and Boehm. “Everything is catered to the student-athlete. I’ve never seen a place with so much attention to detail.”
#8 He believes strongly in giving back
When Miles was first hired as CSU’s head coach in 2007, he didn’t just announce how much he wanted the school to be a consistent winner and a postseason player. He talked about creating a culture for his team to support and give back to the community, and he's done his part to lead that effort. Miles and his wife, Kari, have been generous donors to the school’s scholarship endowment and have reached out to support several educational initiatives and philanthropic opportunities that benefit children and single moms. “Fort Collins has been good to us, and we feel strongly that we need to reciprocate,” Miles said. “Kari and I know we’re fortunate to be in a position to show our support. We believe very strongly in education and want to provide every opportunity we can.”
#9 He’s a highly motivational coach
Trust me on this one. I watched a video of Miles on CSU's website, and you can tell instantly how well he communicates and how highly he motivates. He’s animated, instinctive and intense in all the right ways. He claps his hands. He constantly reinforces, and he knows when to repeat words he believes in. “Hustle! Hustle! Hustle! ... Attack, Attack, Attack!” he exhorts. Later, he implores: “We always fight back! We always fight back! We always fight back! Do the little things! Play for each other! Screen for each other! Move to get open!” Here’s where he really mirrors Osborne. “The idea is to make practice situations even more difficult than what you might undergo in games,” Miles said. “We keep the pressure on and demands high to help players perform better.”
#10 He maximizes players’ potential
Miles was recently named the District VIII Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. “We try to use passion and energy to create an edge in every player,” he said. “We spend a lot of time with our players to find out what makes them tick. We know who the introverts are, who the extroverts are and what motivates them. My job as coach is to minimize your weaknesses and maximize your strengths and help you play to your strengths.” Having seen Nebraska’s practice facilities and then envisioning the new Pinnacle Bank Arena under construction, Miles knows he has facilities with unlimited potential to recruit great players.
CSU vowed to meet or exceed Nebraska’s best offer Friday before Miles flew back to Fort Collins to tell his team that he was accepting NU's offer. It’s flattering for any coach when two schools want your services at the same time. Fortunately, Miles decided he was ready to move, willing to assemble an energetic staff to attract high-powered recruits and able to take on a supreme challenge. After all, he wants to maximize his own potential every bit as much as he wants to maximize those smart enough to play for him.
Here’s the kicker in all this. Every time Osborne and Boehm discussed which coaching candidate fit Nebraska to a T, they kept coming back to the same name …Tim Miles, a native of Doland, S.D. (population: 180), the same hometown as U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey. "Tim Miles is an ideal fit to lead our men's basketball program," Osborne said. "He has built successful programs at four schools at different levels of college basketball. Tim is from this part of the country, has recruited the Midwest and will relate well to our players, prospective recruits and our fans."
He's the right man at the right time to lead Nebraska into a new and exciting era. It should be fun, entertaining and, without a doubt, challenging.
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Voices from Husker Nation
Great take on Coach Miles. I'm sure the Knights of the Keyboard (with apologies to Bobby Knight) will downplay the hire. I think Miles is a great fit for Nebraska. To me, the bottom line is Terry Pettit. If Terry recommends Miles, I'm all in. Of course, time will tell. The aforementioned Knights will decry Tom for not going outside the box. I disagree. This move is completely outside the box. He fits no standard template, is a Midwest guy, and gave a press conference that was not full of the loathsome coachspeak. Count me in! We may never challenge Duke or North Carolina, but I believe that Husker fans are going to love Coach Miles. Skip Morris, Lincoln, Nebraska
I’m a 1994 Southwest Minnesota State University graduate and a 1997 Nebraska College of Law graduate. I returned to Marshall in 1997 after my time in Lincoln and Tim was the new hire to coach the Mustangs. I got to know him well in those four years and am very excited as a Husker about Tim’s hire. Tim is a class act, stand-up guy, and a great coach. Just to put it in perspective, when Tim was hired at SMSU, it was among the least successful D2 programs in history. Since Tim’s hire, we have won two Northern Sun titles and have made two Elite Eight appearances. The turnaround started with Tim’s hiring, and his former assistant and a player he recruited have continued the success as head coaches since Tim’s departure. Bill Toulouse, Marshall, Minnesota, SMSU 1994, NU 1997
Looks like Coach Tom got a "Good Guy" in Tim Miles. Wishing him the best! Could be the key to the powerful combination of coaching+facilities+athletes=success. Jerry Wood, Valrico, FloridaWatched today’s press conference on Huskers.com and read the 10 reasons why Miles is a good fit for Nebraska. I agree totally. Just listening to him, you can tell no one’s going to work harder than he is to change the Nebraska basketball paradigm that’s a half century old. Great hire, Coach Osborne. I know you know change doesn’t happen overnight. I just hope fans realize you have to fix what’s systemically wrong in the foundation first and then go from there. Enjoyed all the coverage! Thanks for going the extra mile for us fans who follow the Huskers from afar. Brad Burrows, Glendale, California
I’m pumped about the new men’s basketball hire at NU. I’ve known Tim Miles since officiating basketball games when he was an assistant at Northern State. I also was an official when he was at Southwest and Mayville State. When people meet him, they’ll learn that he’s a great guy and very down to earth. I’m excited. He’s a great hire. Jim Johnston, NU alum, Mitchell, South Dakota
Great article on Tim Miles, but another key point is that he had four Nebraskans playing for him at CSU – Jesse Carr (Ainsworth), Wes Eikemeier (Fremont) and Dwight and Greg Smith (Ralston). They are all key players for CSU and all from Nebraska. It will be great to watch him use Nebraska talent and compete in the Big Ten. As a Nebraska fan, it has been great to attend CSU games and watch the Nebraska talent and wonder why they were not playing for NU. John and Jeanne Lambert, UNL Classes of ‘64 & ’66, Fort Collins, Colorado
In Tom we trust. Thanks for reporting the positives that go into such a big hire. It’s exciting. GBR! Steve Smith, Denver, Colorado
I am sure that Miles is all the things you say he is, but as an ORU alum and Scott Sutton fan, I must say that all the things you listed as attributes for Miles, I could also say the same things for Scott Sutton. Good luck to Nebraska and for now, I am glad that Sutton is still with ORU. He probably won’t be for long. David Besecker, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
When I first read about this hiring Friday, I was disappointed the media was so underwhelmed. I knew there was more to this story than they were reporting. Thanks for balancing things out and explaining all the great reasons why Mr. Miles is the right man for this job. He deserves our support. Jeff Johnson, Omaha, Nebraska
Love reading about a young coach who's more concerned with learning and getting better than he is with his own record. Give Tim Miles a ton of credit for his willingness to travel and play anyone anywhere. Coaches like him and Darin Erstad are a rare breath of fresh air in today's world. We're rooting for both coaches in Minnesota. Ryan Reynolds, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
I don't usually watch press conferences, but I did today, and I was moved watching both Tom Osborne and Tim Miles kind of choke up when they discussed emotional issues. I think we have an athletic director who still cares about a coach he fired and a promising young coach who still cares deeply about the players he left behind in Colorado. To me, that's why both are successful - because they look beyond themselves. Great column on Coach Miles. He's going to motivate fans as well as his players. Lynn Thompson, Des Moines, Iowa