Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal-Star reports that Colorado State head coach Tim Miles is in Lincoln touring the Hendricks Practice Facility. He would be the first coaching candidate to be on campus during this search. Since typically visits like this are the final acts before making an agreement and the inevitable press conference, it seems likely that Miles has emerged as the leading candidate for the vacant Nebraska basketball coaching position. Lee Barfknecht of the World-Herald reports that a press conference may be announced for tomorrow.
Why not John Groce of Ohio? Good question. My gut feeling is that Groce may have already rejected discussions with Nebraska at this point. It could be the money, it could be the perception that if Groce stays in Athens, better opportunities await next season. It could also be the national perception that despite Nebraska's shiny new facilities, the Husker head coaching job is a coaching graveyard.
So what is Tim Miles background?Miles has spent the last five seasons at Colorado State. The Rams went 7-25 in 2007-08, going winless in the Mountain West. By 2009-10, the Rams were at .500 and earned a bid to the postseason CBI. In 2010-11, the Rams went 19-13 and earned a bid to the NIT. This past season, Miles team finished 20-12 and finished fourth in the Mountain West. They did earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, though the 11th seeded Rams lost to #6 seed Murray State 58-41 last week.
This season, Colorado State went undefeated in conference play at home, including upsets of #12 San Diego State 77-60, #18 New Mexico 71-63, and #17 UNLV 66-59, all of whom went onto the NCAA tournament seeded fifth or sixth. His roster features four Nebraskans: junior Jesse Carr from Ainsworth, junior Wes Eikmeier from Fremont, and brothers Greg (junior) and Dwight Smith (sophomore) from Ralston.
Prior to Colorado State, Miles spent six seasons at North Dakota State, which was transitioning from division 2 to division 1. Miles' former assistant, Saul Phillips, took Miles' players to the NCAA tournament once the Bison became eligible to play in the NCAA tournament. Prior to North Dakota State, Miles spent four seasons at Southwest Minnesota State, finishing up with a Division 2 Elite Eight appearance. Prior to that, Miles spent two seasons at NAIA Mayville State. After playing for the University of Mary from 1985-1989, Miles spent six seasons at Northern State as an assistant coach.
Miles salary last season was reportedly $585,000 and was scheduled to get a raise to $750,000 next season.
So what to think about Miles? Well, he won't demand the salary that a John Groce would have required. Nebraska would likely pay Miles more than Doc Sadler, but I would have to think it would not be tremendously more than $1 million a season.
He has a winning reputation, but the glaring issue is that he's never recruited players to this level of school. It's one thing to pull off a few upsets and finish fourth in the Mountain West. That won't translate well to the Big Ten, where this season, Nebraska faced four teams that made it to the Sweet 16. If Miles is going to be the next head basketball coach, he is going to need proven assistants who can find and deliver Big Ten caliber athletes. He won't be able to bring his existing staff from Fort Collins.
Some fans may call for the hiring of a former Husker (such as Erik Piatkowski or Erick Strickland) as an assistant coach. While that would be nice from a public relations perspective, but in the end, Nebraska needs players...and Miles will need to supplement his staff with proven assistants with strong recruiting backgrounds nationally.
I'm somewhat underwhelmed by the hire, but Miles may be the best Nebraska could obtain. I do believe that Nebraska did shoot for the moon with Ben Howland, Gregg Marshall, and John Groce. If nobody at those levels can be snagged, so be it. I think Osborne made every effort to do so. Now the proof will be in the assistants that Miles brings with him.