NU to Begin Nationwide Search for Men's Basketball Head Coach
Byrne said the search for a new coach will begin immediately and he hopes to have a new coach selected by spring. Per University policies, Bill Byrne will not comment on personnel matters.
Men's basketball press conference - March 13, 2000
Nebraska Director of Athletics Bill Bryne
I am here to inform you that I am not extending Coach Danny Nee's contract to coach men's basketball at the University of Nebraska. Under the terms of his contract, his employment will be terminated March 31, 2000. We will begin a nationwide search for a new coach immediately.
How much will terminated Nee's contract cost?
Under the terms of his contract, liquidated damages will approximate $400,000.
When did you come to this decision?
I've talked with Danny ongoing over the course of the season. We had effectively come to this decision some time ago. These things are not brought out by some occurrence. They happen over an extended period of time. When we do personnel evaluations, it's not over just one season or one incident. It's an accumulation of things. That was when I decided to make the decision that the best course for the University of Nebraska would benefit from a coaching change.
Danny's been here for fourteen years, and we've had a lot of good times. I would rather concentrate on the good times we've had here.
Did it essentially come down to wins and losses?
Certainly, in this business, that has a lot to do with it. I tell our coaches that we're measured every day by the scoreboard. We're out there performing. And it does matter whether we win or lose. At Nebraska, we like to win more than we lose.
Did the fans have an impact on you?
I didn't have a lot of requests from fans or supporters of the institution one way or the other. One of the concerns that you have as the director of athletics is, "Are people losing their passion for the team?" You worry that people will just give up and walk away. I can assure you that many of the comments I've heard from the fans is that they are still passionate about Nebraska basketball.
What were the players' reactions?
I have only talked to one player so far. I'm in the midst of calling the rest. You expect players to be loyal to their coaches, and this player was.
Are you comfortable with the pool of coaches out there who are potential candidates?
I think that there will be some fine coaches available for us. I'll look for someone who will fit into our culture. I'll look for someone with a proven record. I'll look for someone who I think will have a good relationship with our coaches, our athletes and our fans.
Is there anyone in particular that you're looking at right now?
As you can imagine, I have to keep a list of coaches that I might be interested in for all sports. Part of my job is to evaluate coaches across the nation. I have been doing that not only in basketball, but in a number of other sports for a long number of years. So yes, I know a lot of good coaches who are out there, and I've watched them in person. In many instances, I've gotten to know them personally.
Will the NCAA and NIT Tournaments postpone your search?
I have not contacted any athletic director to ask permission to talk to his coach. And as long as that team is competing, I will not ask for permission. The last thing you want to do, and I would not want it to happen to me, is to have someone disrupt your season by going and raiding your coach. So I will certainly honor the rules of the road that we have in athletics by not contacting any coach until his season is over.
What's your vision or your goal for Nebraska basketball?
We like to win national championships. It is not unreasonable for us to be a team that can compete year in and year out. I would like us to be in the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis, and I would like us to do well there.
Will it take you a period of years to do that?
Well, we started rifle two years ago here, and we just won third place in the nation this past weekend. In a sport like basketball where one or two individuals can make a significant impact in a hurry, I would hope that, if we bring someone in who can effectively recruit, that we can have some quick success. I would hope for that. But I'm not going to expect instant success. I told Paul Sanderford (NU women's basketball coach) when I hired him that this was a marathon, not a sprint, and that for us to win national championships in women's basketball, it would take some time. I would expect to have the same type of process in men's basketball.
What was Danny's reaction?
He is a stand-up first-rate person, and we had a very cordial, business-like discussion. He is a fine man.
Do you have a timetable for hiring a new coach?
Well, we would like to move as expeditiously as possible. As I outlined previously, we have limitations as to when we can contact people. Most of the people we're interested in have teams that are still playing. Not all, but most. So we will not be contacting them until after their teams have finished their seasons.
Are you conducting the search entirely on your own, or do you have a search committee?
I am basically the search committee. I have advisors. The chancellor is the primary one. I have been doing a lot of research on coaches. I routinely do. So as far as a short list, I already have that in place. There will be people helping me screen those folks, but a lot of that has already been done.
Who will handle potential recruits now?
We have one recruit who has signed, and I was trying to call him prior to coming in to see you because I did not want him to hear about this on a news conference. Unfortunately, I was not able to reach him. But I will try again when we're finished. I've started making phone calls to players who are out of town -- this is spring break. Then, I will meet with the players collectively when they return next week. I've already met with all of the assistant coaches but one.
What will happen to the assistant coaches?
Their contracts end June 30. I will encourage whoever the new coach is to interview them, and if he likes them, to hire them. But there are no guarantees.
What is your sense of Nebraska basketball's national perception?
It's one that people think has potential. We do not have a history of great basketball. We have only won a few championships. But it has great potential. We have a large number of sports here, and I think that all but two or three are nationally ranked, and all of them are nationally competitive. That is our goal at Nebraska.
Are you looking for someone who is fairly high-profile?
I am looking for someone who is going to build the kind of program we want here at the University of Nebraska. I've worked really hard at hiring coaches here. I think if you look at the track record, you will see that we've working very hard at finding people who will fit here. I assure you that we will do that here as well.
What went wrong over the last few years? What was the turning point?
I think it was an accumulation of things. It wasn't just one incident or one game. There are a variety of things that go into determining whether or not you want someone to head a program, particularly a high-profile program like basketball. I can't pinpoint just one thing.