Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Miles Sees Fans as Huskers 'Sixth Man'

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York’s N-Sider

It’s Fan Experience Night tonight at Pinnacle Bank Arena (PBA). In Tim Miles’ book, that’s Chapter One of 6th-Man 101 Training … a fresh start in a new building offering a unique opportunity to write a basketball novel with a finish that Nebraska has never, ever experienced … a season that includes a win in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. That’s the elephant in a brand-spanking new building with 15,200 seats. Whenever a basketball program sells out six months before the opening tip, a head coach thinks and dreams before he relaxes and sleeps, and Miles, in his second year at the Husker helm, knows what can stimulate his players. So don’t be surprised when a certain video featuring a certain celebrity explodes from PBA’s big screens to launch a one-hour scrimmage on the first day major college basketball teams can practice.

Miles did not see that video until Wednesday afternoon and in a Thursday morning basketball meeting to discuss whatever pomp and circumstance will happen when the curtain goes up on the Huskers’ new home for hoops, he asked the staging team when the video will play because “I want my team out there when it does,” he said. “I love it and I think our players and fans will love it, too.” Make no mistake. Miles sees basketball success as a three-legged stool. The first is recruiting players who will play together. The second is having coaches who will work on solutions to maximize talent. And the third is filling up one of the nation’s best basketball arenas with a full house of inspired fans. Miles wants those fans to be so dialed-up they can’t help but make our new house highly uncomfortable for high-quality teams that don’t circle Lincoln in red on their schedule cards.

New Video Will Knock Your Socks Off

The video has great potential to help Big Red fans “feel it” without ever asking you the question, and in my mind, a new building with a new major tenant can light a torch that helps the Huskers elevate to meet the unparalleled power level of the Big Ten Conference. Yours truly got a sneak peek of the new video, and I’m going out on a limb and predicting that it’ll knock the socks off Husker fans of all ages. It’s an amped up classic song tailored to help Husker fans do what Miles wants them to do – stand up and cheer loud and cheer proud and do it day-after-day, so on the day of a game or the night of a game, this arena will rock like nowhere else.

“Since this is the first time in 38 years that we’ve moved, let’s make this a rocking arena,” Miles said. “We’re like a football team that needs 12th-man except we need a 6th-Man. We’re treating opening night as our first night of 6th-Man 101 Training, and we’ve invited everyone to the party. This is truly all about the fan experience – a way for them to get a feel for our new venue. Now, it’s not going to be a 100-percent game experience, but everyone will get a good idea of the sounds, the sight lines and the players they’ll be cheering on because we’re going to introduce ourselves to everyone who comes into our new house.

It’s Our Time and Time to Make the Most of It 

“It’s our time in history, and we want to make the most of it,” said Miles, who volunteered to emcee the evening. Since his team already will have practiced Friday afternoon, he’ll have a microphone in his hand throughout the 7-8 p.m. public scrimmage. “We want to make it a competitive environment. It won’t be like an all-star game, and it won’t be like a regular game. It’ll be somewhere in between, and I’m just going to talk about our guys and comment on what they’ve done for us … how our veterans are going to take us to the next step and the bigger roles they might play and the leadership we might have on our team. I just want to give our fans an inside look at our team. It’s going to be a fun night. Afterwards, we’ll sign autographs and have some more interaction with our fans.”

And that’s not all, folks. For those who engage in this uniquely personal fan experience, Nebraska Athletics has its own special thank you for fans. “I think they’ll appreciate what we have for them,” said Marc Boehm, Nebraska’s Executive Associate Athletic Director who’s in charge of men’s and women’s basketball. “They’ll get excited when they get a glimpse of the video, and I think what we’re doing is innovative and will show our fans how much we appreciate them helping us make history six months before the season starts.”

The Newbies: Webster, Hawkins, Fuller and Smith

Miles wants fans to be part of an atmosphere that thrives on passion and positive vibes. “I know it’s a little scary to imagine me with a mike for a whole hour, so I apologize to our fans in advance about whatever might happen,” he said. “I’ve never worked Vegas, but I want to work the arena once because I think it’s important that our fans know our guys and why we want to have fun. We’ve been talking about this day for the longest time, and I just can’t wait to introduce them. To me, that’s truly the most exciting part of all of this – getting the chance to interact with our guys and to coach our guys, so we can make them a better team and show everyone that the sum of our group will be better than any of the individual parts. That’s the coolest part of coaching and why I’m so excited about getting this all kicked off. Our new guys – Tai Webster , Nate Hawkins, Nick Fuller and Leslee Smith – are all going to add something to what we’re trying to do, and they will all play a vital part of our success. Tai is a really, really good basketball player. Nate has great skills. Nick can really shoot the ball, and everyone will see Leslee’s explosiveness in the scrimmage. Our players are as tired of thinking and talking about basketball as our coaches are. We’re all ready to go.”

There are a lot of reasons why Miles will be roaming Friday night with a microphone in his hand, and one of them is to remind fans how they’re woven into Nebraska’s blueprint for success. Over the summer, Bo Ryan, Wisconsin’s head basketball coach, approached Miles and told him he’d heard the Wisconsin game in Lincoln was already sold out. Then he found out Nebraska’s entire Big Ten season was sold out in Lincoln and was almost flabbergasted when he heard the punch line – the entire non-conference part of the Huskers’ home season was also sold out.  “Bo told me how important our fan support is and how unreal it can get,” Miles said. “He knows what a special advantage fans can be at a home game because that’s the way he built his own program up to be where it is today. “

101 Training Involves Players, Coaches and Fans

“It’s important that our players recognize how important our fans are, too,” Miles said. “Our fans can make an impact across the Big Ten, and I think our coaches’ and players’ interaction with our fans will be an important part of our overall development as a basketball team.”

Nebraska men’s basketball 6th-Man 101 Training begins tonight, and for a certain head coach and his staff and his players, it’s time for their own version of Friday Night Lights. It’s our time and our new house, and the Huskers can’t wait to share it with all of our fans, whether you’ve been on the bus for a long time or just climbed on and whether you’re young or old or somewhere in between. We’re still going to ask everyone to stand up and cheer and cheer loud and cheer proud, and with the new sounds and the new sights and a new era, we may not even have to ask. You might, just might, feel the urge to stand up and “Rock It” by yourself. 

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