Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne addressed the media this afternoon regarding the future of the men's basketball program.
"Thank you for coming. I know for many of you this is somewhat short notice. I've decided to make a change in the basketball program. I've had to do some difficult things over my lifetime, and I'd say this may be as difficult as any of them. Doc Sadler is a good man; he's an honorable man. I consider him to be a good friend. I thought it was wise at this point to make the change.
"Doc has certainly represented the university well. As you know, he's excellent at public relations and he's always gone the extra mile and we'll always appreciate that. He's been very positive even throughout this season where it would be very easy to become negative. He really never has done that. I think that's an exceptional quality. He's been honest in a profession that is rather difficult to be honest. I've really appreciated that about him and he's worked very hard. I thought personally, this would be Doc's best team. He had quite a bit of experience back and a point guard that looked like he was going to be very talented. You always got to start there, I think, in basketball, just like you have to have a good quarterback in football. It looked pretty promising at the start of the year. We tried to make any commitment that we could by working hard on upgrading facilities. We gave Doc a contract extension a year ago to help him in recruiting. We also made some adjustments in his assistant's salaries a couple years ago, which we thought would make him more competitive. A strength coach was something we added a year ago and so on- some things in private planes and so on.
"The injuries obviously hurt this year, no question about that. The schedule was difficult, a new league. He had to adjust to a different style of play. What happened was that I gambled and Doc gambled on this being a good year. And unfortunately, for whatever reason, it didn't work out this way. And so, you're confronted with where do you go from here? I know that the reason I made the decision was because there comes a point in every athletic program and every team where you either begin to build momentum and things begin to look brighter or you begin to lose momentum, and when you start losing momentum, then recruiting gets more and more difficult and maintaining and sustaining the program gets harder. And I felt that that's where we were. I was hoping that at this point at the season, we'd be at a different point in the trajectory and the facilities would kick in and this thing would work. Again, I don't think it is Doc's fault. I think many things transpired to get us to this point, but my assessment right now is simply that we had lost momentum and lost a certain amount of enthusiasm among our fan base and as a result a change was in order.
And so, as the Athletic Director, there's no question where things end. Responsibility has to rest with me. Maybe there's something I could have done better, quicker. Maybe facilities, maybe more private aircraft, but I thought we had taken care of that. Maybe something different in terms of the way we recruited, but again, that's usually up to the coach. Sometimes it's important to search out the culprit and figure out who did something wrong, and I certainly got to raise my hand. I was here for five years of Doc's six years and things didn't get better and it has to be to a certain degree my fault as well.
I'm going to miss Doc. I like him very much. I like his staff and we'll do the best we can to see to it that they have a fairly positive outcome. Doc certainly will be employable. I know that he's had some interest in the past. I don't know to what level. I don't know much about that, but I certainly think he'll be able to land on his feet and I think his assistants will too. I'll do anything I can to help them. They're certainly people I'd recommend. It may have been mostly circumstantial, and certain things that happened that go us to this point, but to my judgment, it was something that had to change and that's the decision that was made. Having said this, I'm glad to answer your questions."
On if there was a specific point in the season when he thought he'd have to make a change
"I don't think there was a specific time. I evaluate all the coaching staffs and we bring them in for an individual meeting sometime in January or early February. We did that with the basketball staff 2 or 2 ½ weeks ago. At that time I had told Doc and his staff- I think it was right after the Illinois game, where things have gone well- I said, 'now you got at least five games left, and we hope maybe six, or seven or eight, but we need some positive things to point to. We need to have something that will build some confidence.' I said, 'if that doesn't happen, we're going to have to evaluate things pretty severely.' I think the coaches understood that. It wasn't like they didn't understand the situation. Of course, as you know, things didn't go well after the game. So no, there was no special time. We just felt this year, sixth year, something reasonably positive needed to happen. And like I pointed out, there are lots of things that you can point too that weren't particularly anybody's fault that happened. So that 's where we are."
On how big of a factor the lack of fan enthusiasm played a role
"I don't know if you measure it specifically. We have had some decline in attendance, but I know even at Duke, there has been some decline at least on the part of the students. So I don't know if you can say we can actually measure that. But I do believe if we win a game or two, even this year, our fans show up in good numbers the next game or two. People are human and they have to have a certain amount of sustained success and I think we can have the same enthusiasm about basketball that we do about football here, but you have to have some success over a period of time to really sustain that."
On if he has any regrets about giving Doc the extension last year
"No. I felt it was important that we gave Doc every chance. As you know in recruiting, if people are nipping at your heels a little bit and you only got three years left on your contract, then people start using that. It's going to cost some money, but we felt we had to give Doc every opportunity. So we extended his contract; we raised the guaranteed money to some degree. We felt that when he talked about commitment, that was part of it. I have no regrets about that. As I said, Doc has many good qualities. No one wanted Doc to be successful more than I did."
On if he has a coach in mind and what he's looking for in the new coach along with where he wants this program to go
"I figured that question would come. The answer is obviously I'm aware of coaches around the country. I have no specific coach in mind. The thing we'd like to do is certainly, number one, have someone with integrity. That's something that's going to be paramount, someone that's concerned about academics. Those two things fit Doc. He had integrity. He cared about the academic performance of his players. Someone who cares about the players and that's something that Doc did. So you're looking for a special person- someone that can do all those things and still win a fair number of basketball games. Believe me, winning isn't everything. You look at the process, you look at recruiting and how things are going and at some point, if you do enough things right, the winning takes care of itself. We'll look at a variety of things, but right now I have nobody in particular in mind."
On if head coaching experience counts in the next head coach
"We'll look at all those things. I'm sure there are some assistants out there that would be very good. You're always rolling the dice a bit more with an assistant because you don't have a very clear track record. And sometimes, head coaching experience and records can be deceiving too depending on the situation you've inherited, what kind of players they've had to work with an their recruiting situation. There's no perfect formula. I wish there was a defined prescription of success of choosing a coach, but unfortunately it's more of an art form than anything. We'll do the best we can."
On if there's a time table
"Naturally you'd like to not have it drag on forever, but you have a lot of people that are going to be involved in the NCAA Tournament, and they're not going to want to talk about anything except the tournament right now. So I would say, no there is no particular timetable. It's more important to get it as right as we can, so we'll just play it along one day at a time."
On how he feels this position will be viewed by other coaches
"I think it'll be a mixed reaction. Coaches will be aware of the commitment we've made to the facilities and they'll appreciate that. Being a member of the Big Ten Conference, overall, will probably be positive. The tradition we have here is mixed. At one time, we did win some basketball games, but this is not known as a basketball power. That doesn't mean that it can't be. I don't subscribe to the theory that this is a football school and this is a basketball school and that never the two will meet, I don't believe in that. That will be viewed by as some, as not being terribly positive. But on the other hand if you're a coach, and let's say you're going to Duke, the upside potential is pretty slim and the downside is huge. At a job like this, the upside is pretty large and the downside is not so large. So that's another way to look at it from a coaching standpoint. I think it'll be an attractive job. I don't think people will necessary beat down the doors if they're at an established basketball school with a great job. I don't think that's going to necessarily happen, but we'll see what happens."
On what type of standard he wants the basketball program to be held at
"I think you look more at the trajectory than you do at the absolute number of wins. To say, 'well we're going to win 25 games every year,' would probably be unrealistic and not a good standard. The question is: what do you have coming in? You might have a team that didn't do very well, but if you have four or five really great recruits and maybe you've redshirted a couple players, you can say, 'well next year we should really be good.' That's another way to measure success. I would hope that we would be very competitive in the conference and compete at the level we were can occasionally win the conference. That may be overly optimistic, but I don't think so.
When you look at the facilities they should be in the upper five or 10-percent nationally. I think our fans are very supportive if you just win a fair amount. I think that's positive. And another thing is having a good football base allows us to have a large enough budget where we can do a lot of the things that need to be done. There are a lot of schools that don't have football that can't do those things, so that helps us too."
On if there's a specific route on recruiting he wants the next head coach to go about
"I'll be very interested to hear how they want to go about recruiting. I don't think I'm going to be prescriptive and say, 'well you have to have a great base in Chicago and Los Angles and not so much Dallas.' But I'll be interested in how they go about it. I don't have any particular guidelines or things that I'd say, 'well you can't do this. You can't go to an AAU tournament.' That's not true at all. Doc ahs recruited AAU and so on. I wouldn't even say we wouldn't even hire an AAU coach, but you got to be very careful when you do that that you're operating within the lines. We'll just see. The number one deal is integrity. Certainly we want to win. We want to treat the players right. We want to try and graduate players and do all of those things. It's a tricky proposition to do all of those things. We'd like to do that.
"Anyways, I think Doc's going to come over here and meet with you guys and answer your questions. Again, I just want to express my appreciation to Doc for all that he's done. This to me, is truly a very sad day. I have a great respect and admiration for all he's done. We'll do everything he can going forward to help him and I think he'll end up at a good place."