Lincoln – Nebraska men’s basketball coach Tim Miles announced Friday the hiring of Jim Molinari (pronounced Mole-in-AIR-ee) as an assistant coach with the Husker basketball program.
One of the most well-respected teachers in college basketball, Molinari brings over three decades of Division I coaching experience to Nebraska, including 20 years of head coaching experience. He is a three-time conference coach of the year during his career, while he has guided nine teams to postseason play. In addition, he has been a member of 10 NCAA Tournament staffs during his 12 season as a Division I assistant coach.
“Today is a great day for Husker Hoops,” Nebraska Coach Tim Miles said. “Adding Coach Molinari to our staff can help elevate us to the next level. He's a great coach and a better person. We are very fortunate he's joining us. He brings a wealth of coaching and recruiting experience. He’s coached in the Final Four as an assistant. He's taken his own team to the NCAA Tournament at two different universities, and he’s recruited NBA players. Jim has had every conceivable experience a coach can have, and he will have a major impact on our program.”
Molinari said it was tough leaving a program he had built over the last six seasons, but is excited for the challenge of helping the Husker program reach unprecedented heights in the near future with Miles. The Huskers made their first NCAA appearance in 16 seasons in 2014.
“It was a difficult decision because I love my players and Western Illinois University,” Molinari said. “I am extremely excited and blessed that the Lord has opened this door to partner with Tim and his staff to continue to build on their success at a very special place - Nebraska.”
“What drew me to Nebraska is that you pick a person as much as you do a place,” Molinari said. “I think the challenge of trying to do something special on a national stage, and I obviously have a love and admiration for the Big Ten having been a part of it for three years at Minnesota.”
Molinari spent the past six seasons at Western Illinois, leading the Leathernecks to their first-ever postseason appearances at the Division I level. In 2012-13, he guided WIU to a 22-9 record and a share of the Summit League regular-season title with a 13-3 mark. The 22 wins were the program’s highest total since moving to Division I while he was named the Summit League Coach of the Year and the NABC District 12 Coach of the Year. He was also a finalist for the Hugh Durham Award (CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Coach of the Year). WIU led the nation in fewest fouls committed and was second in scoring defense at 52.6 points per game, while ranking in the top 75 in six categories. Molinari coached Terell Parks who was tabbed second-team NABC all-district and also named first-team All-Summit League and the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13.
In 2011-12, WIU broke through with an 18-15 record and an appearance in the College Basketball Invitational, the program’s first-ever postseason appearance at the Division I level. The Leathernecks reached the Summit League title game for the first time since 1997, while the 18 wins were the most since 1996-97. Ceola Clark led the team earning Summit League Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, becoming the first player in conference history to be a two-time winner of the award. Clark was also a three-time All-Summit League performer, including a two-time first-team winner.
In 2007-08, Molinari served as an assistant coach at Ball State, following a three-year stint at Minnesota in which he was the interim head coach for most of the 2006-07 season. In his first season as an assistant at Minnesota, his defensive emphasis helped the Gophers rank third in Big Ten scoring defense (62.7 points per game). They led the league in field goal percentage defense (.424) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.274) in conference play, and allowed 62.9 points per league game, the fewest since the 1981-82 season. In 2005, Street & Smith’s named Molinari the “best assistant in the Big Ten Conference.”
For 11 seasons, from 1991-2002, Molinari was the head coach at Bradley University, where he amassed a 174-152 (.534) record and guided the Braves to the postseason six times - five National Invitation Tournament appearances and the 1996 NCAA Tournament. He led Bradley to a trio of 20-win seasons, including a 22-8 record in 1995-96 when he was chosen as Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year. He left Bradley with more league wins than any other active coach in the Missouri Valley.
From 1989-91, he was the head coach at Northern Illinois, where he posted a record of 42-17 (.712). The Huskies won the 1991 Mid-Continent Conference title, going 25-6 and setting a school record for wins. At Northern, Molinari inherited a program that had not won as many as 17 games in a season since 1981, but made a quick turnaround with a 17-win season followed by a 25-win campaign in just his second year at the school.
At DePaul from 1979-89, Molinari helped both Ray and Joey Meyer lead the Blue Demons to national prominence. Over 10 seasons at DePaul, Molinari helped recruit college and professional stars such as Mark Aguirre, Dallas Comegys, Tyrone Corbin, Terry Cummings and Rod Strickland -- players who led DePaul to nine NCAA Tournaments and a runner-up finish in the NIT.
In addition to his collegiate coaching experience, Molinari is a veteran of national selection committees for international competition. He led the 1997 USA Basketball men’s team to a gold medal at the World University Games played in Trapani, Italy. For two years in-between collegiate coaching positions, Molinari was an NBA scout for the Toronto Raptors (2002-03) and Miami Heat (2003-04).
His college playing career began at Kansas State, where he teamed with current Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger for two seasons. After transferring to Illinois Wesleyan, where he teamed with former NBA center Jack Sikma, Molinari helped the Titans win consecutive league titles, before entering the coaching ranks in 1978 as a part-time assistant with DePaul.
Molinari earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1977 and earned a Juris Doctor from DePaul in 1980.
Lon Kruger, University of Oklahoma Basketball Coach
“I have known Jim since we were teammates at Kansas State. He is very highly respected among coaches. Jim relates well and gets the most from his players. He has great integrity and high character and is interested in development of players, both on and off court. Jim has one of the best defensive minds in college basketball.”