Cuonzo Martin's pursuit of a "better fit" ended Tuesday as he took the head job at Cal, less than a month after leading Tennessee to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Lots of names have been thrown out as candidates at Tennessee, starting with the usual suspects: Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, VCU's Shaka Smart, and former UCLA coach Ben Howland.
Sirius XM host Tim Brando raised eyebrows today by suggesting Tim Miles should be the first call Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart makes.
Tennessee's Dave Hart is a quality AD IMO, but he could prove it by making a strong run at Nebraska's Tim Miles. He is Pearl reincarnated!— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) April 15, 2014
I know Huskers aren't going to be happy with me, and they won't give him up easily, but Tim Miles should be the first call he makes!— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) April 15, 2014
Former CBS colleague Gary Parrish threw some cold water on the idea in response, and for good reason.
@TimBrando Tim would be a home run, no doubt. But I don’t think that’s possible. He has a nice team returning and incredible support at NU.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) April 15, 2014
Brando has been a fan of Miles for some time, sparking these comments during the Huskers upset of Michigan State.
@Husker_Mike Charismatic! Is that better?— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) February 16, 2014
Martin's pursuit of openings at Cal and Marquette over the last month seemed odd to outsiders. Until you realize that in mid-February, there was an all-out campaign on Rocky Talk to bring Bruce Pearl back to Tennessee. You remember Pearl, the guy Tennessee fired for lying to the NCAA. The guy who landed the Vols on NCAA probation.
Yeah, that guy.
In that light, it's no surprise that Martin spent the last few weeks listening to anybody offering a more stable job. SB Nation's Rocky Top Talk looked in depth at the Tennessee basketball situation, and while Martin didn't help himself much in the middle parts of the season, Vol fans certainly did their part to chase him away. The popular rumor is that top boosters refused to give Martin and his staff access to planes for recruiting. If it's true, that's fan sabotage, and nobody could blame Martin for looking elsewhere.
But in that light of all that, the question needs to be asked: Why would Tim Miles pursue that job?
One reason would be that Thompson-Boling Arena on the Vols' campus seats 21,678 fans, which is the largest in the SEC. Win those fans (like he's done at Nebraska), he'd be even bigger.
That being said, some who cover Tennessee question whether the Vols are ready to provide the resources necessary to win. Martin ranked 11th in salary in the SEC; his $1.3 million salary was less than what Miles was making at Nebraska. Is Tennessee willing to pay double what they were paying Martin to lure a top name coach?
No matter who Tennessee decides to pursue, athletic director Dave Hart has to come up with an answer as to what happened with Martin. Every coaching candidate with a good job is going to ask that question, and he'll need a really, really good answer.
And I don't think that Hart is going to come up with an answer that'll sway Miles, unless Miles has some aspirations for Tennessee or the SEC. The Big Ten is a better basketball conference than the SEC, so that wouldn't appear to sway Miles. With the Big Ten's television contracts, Nebraska should be able to match anything that Tennessee would offer.
With his fourth place finish in the Big Ten, Miles has earned himself nearly unanimous praise and acclaim. He's got the facilities in Lincoln to win. And he's not looking over his shoulder at his predecessors. Nobody's pining for Moe Iba or Barry Collier. On the other hand at Tennessee, fans still pine for Bruce Pearl, who's now been hired by Auburn, making it easy to make comparisons. The next Tennessee coach will not only be competing against the SEC, but also against the ghost of Bruce Pearl past and present.
In the end, I don't see Miles bolting Nebraska any time soon. While he's moved around, it's always been within driving distance of his home in South Dakota. While some say you can't win at Nebraska, Miles is proving the opposite. He has a chance to become the Bob Devaney of Nebrasketball. He's building a program on his own, and if he succeeds, he'll have earned all of the credit. Credit that he'll never have to share if he does it at Nebraska.
He's only started at Nebraska. I don't see him leaving Nebraska for Tennessee.