Tim Miles, character, humor, class. A few words to sum up how great of a man Tim Miles is, but a man who just couldn’t seem to get over the hump. Or did he?
Previously serving as the Colorado State head coach, Nebraska called up Miles to replace Doc Sadler, hoping his success at North Dakota State and CSU would propel the Huskers to their first NCAA tournament win. In the transition years, it seemed like Nebraska had found someone special.
The switch to the Big Ten, brand new Pinnacle Bank Arena, Miles had the tools for success, and he found that early on in his career. In just his second year as head coach (2013-2014), Miles led the Huskers to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. 1998. Even though a dominating Baylor team shattered Nebraska’s hopes in the Round of 64 as a cinderella team, something about Nebrasketball switched after that season.
The following season (2014-2015) Nebraska earned a spot in the AP Preseason Top 25, returning most of the lineup from the NCAA tournament run and viewed as a dark horse for March Madness. Fans filled the stadium. Yet, the team finished 13-18 overall, and 5-13 in the Big Ten, placing 12th in the conference. The doubts started to rise then, how could a team that played so well a year before, do so poorly the year after?
The Athletic Department stuck with him, and everyone knew there would be some growing pains after losing Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford heading into the 2015-2016 season. Miles recruited well, landing Glynn Watson Jr. and Ed Morrow, establishing the Illinois Pipeline that Big Ten teams Northwestern and Illinois had controlled for years.
Miles brought in the talent, he developed that talent, making Glynn Watson Jr. one of the best guards in Nebraska history, and transforming Isaiah Roby (from Illinois) into an NBA prospect and dunking machine. Not to mention landing James Palmer Jr. from the University of Miami, and Isaac Copeland from Georgetown, Nebraska’s highest rated recruit since Rivals.com started its rankings in 2003.
The seasons from 2015-2017 can be viewed as “understandable” to an extent for Nebraska not doing too well, but 2017-2018 is when the hot seat ignited for Tim Miles.
Copeland received a waiver from the NCAA to play the entire year, Anton Gill returned from injury and looked as healthy as ever with sharpshooting abilities, James Palmer Jr. terrorized the Big Ten with his slashing abilities, yet the Huskers still didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Even though they finished 22-11 overall, 13-5 in Big Ten play (4th place), the most conference wins in program history, the committee didn’t give Nebraska an at-large bid.
Miles played his card, he showed off the talent he had, unfortunately due to a lack of “Quadrant 1 and 2 wins”, they didn’t get to dance. His efforts for that season got him a one year extension under new Athletic Director Bill Moos, but everyone knew this is where Miles had to go all-in. NCAA tournament or bust.
Ranked in the preseason coaches poll for the first time since the 2014-2015 season, Nebraska was a lock for the NCAA tournament. As high as a 4 seed experts claimed. With potential Big Ten player of the year James Palmer Jr., as well as worthy All-Big Ten team candidates Isaac Copeland, Glynn Watson Jr., and Isaiah Roby, no way Nebraska was missing the tournament.
A roller-coaster of a season would ensue as Nebrasketball fans know all too well, where the middle of the season plagued by injuries and inconsistent play on the road created the “sandwich”, a metaphor Miles used to describe the season in the TCU post-game press conference.
Nebraska flew through non-conference play, suffering only one loss to Texas Tech, now 3 seed in the Sweet Sixteen, on a neutral court. Then January hit. Back-to-back losses against Maryland and Iowa had fans a little nervous, but that was when the coaster was only nearing the top of the ride.
The lack of mentality and discipline at the Rutgers loss really began to show the middle of Miles’s sandwich being made, with Copeland’s injury in the Ohio State exposing the entire meal. Even after Copeland’s injury Nebraska had a team certainly capable of making a tournament run, but the team never found a way to close up the sandwich, until it was too late.
After injuries to Copeland, Thomas Allen, Amir Harris, and a suspension for Nana Akenten, all hope for the NCAA tournament vanished. The chances had already dissolved at that point, but watching the embarrassing loss at Michigan, it was clear this team belonged no where near the dancing floor.
However, something clicked at the end with Miles’s “Super Seven” lineup at home for Senior Day against Iowa and in the Big Ten tournament. Contributions from THOR and Johnny Trueblood sparked this team into an NIT home-game and win against Butler, the first postseason win for Nebraska since 2008.
As the Huskers fell to TCU in the second round of the NIT, Nebraska and the Athletic Department swallowed their final bites of Miles’s sandwich, and Miles was relieved of his duties Tuesday afternoon.
Whether you wanted Miles gone years ago or wanted him gone in the middle of this season, one thing is for sure, you can’t dislike Tim Miles. Miles never quit on his job or this team. His efforts to try and lift Nebraska to its first NCAA tournament win will never be forgotten, and he might have very well set the foundation for a very good future for Nebrasketball.
The character, humor, and class Miles possesses completely revitalized and “re-branded” this program. Nebraska fans really do care about basketball now, not just football, and that shows in attendance records for Pinnacle Bank Arena. 10,000+ at a first round NIT game was the most this year, and goes to show the hearts of Huskers fans, and maybe the falling population of Jayskers...
Don’t remember Miles as the guy who just missed reaching the stars. Think of him as the guy who brought Nebraska to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years and broke the record for the most conference wins in a season. Think of him as a guy who deserves a great future wherever he ends up. This may not be the last we hear of Tim Miles...