“Is Tim Miles, the eccentric personality at the heart of Nebraska basketball, coaching for his job?”
Over the past two to three years the college basketball season in Lincoln, Nebraska has seemed to open with that story line. It seems as though the 2017-18 season will refuse to buck that pessimistic trend. Perhaps now more than ever, it is imperative for Miles and the Cornhuskers to be successful on the floor. If they continue with their lackluster play on the floor and in the Big Ten, it would come as no shock to not see Miles on the bench next season.
After a terrific three seasons at Colorado State, Miles was brought in along with Shawn Eichorst in a semi-overhaul of the Nebraska Athletics Department in 2012. Miles had led the Rams to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003 the year prior. Before that, he laid the groundwork for the future success of programs like North Dakota State and Division II school Southwest Minnesota State.
The leash on Miles was almost immediately given more slack after the Huskers battled their way into the NCAA Tournament two years into his term. It was Nebraska’s first tournament appearance since 1998. That magical run to an at-large bid electrified Lincoln and put more buzz on the basketball program than ever before.
2014-15 saw the Huskers crack the preseason top-25 polls, at number 21. Again, another feat was conquered by Miles, as Nebraska had not been ranked nationally since 1994-95. For those wondering, that was when the Huskers were still part of the Big 8 conference. The number 21 ranking was rightfully attributed, with returning studs like Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, the Huskers were poised for not only another NCAA Tournament berth, but a tournament win as well.
To say 2014-15 was a disappointment is a great underselling of the mediocrity on the floor. The Huskers finished the season 13-18, finishing 12th in the Big Ten. Miles even went so far as to lock the players out of their locker room after a 74-46 loss to Iowa at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The following week featured the Huskers continually locked out of their dressing rooms. When asked about where his players should get dressed, Miles implored them to “get creative”.
Whatever message Miles intended to send did not ring true, as Nebraska lost their remaining four games that season. The next two seasons saw the Huskers fail to crest over the .500 mark. With last season’s dismal 12-19 record, Miles’ Huskers mark stands at 75-86.
Despite unbecoming play on the floor, the Nebraska Athletics Department continued to stick with Miles. Although the headlines featured him on the hot seat, Athletics Director Shawn Eichorst stood by the man that came to the University the same year he did. He continually kept Miles in Lincoln on fairly long leash despite his team’s performance.
Now, things are different for Tim Miles. Eichorst was fired in September for poor performance from his programs. One has to believe the men’s basketball program was one of these poor performers. However, as most know, priority is always put upon football in Lincoln, and they had not been performing either.
Bill Moos is now the newly minted Athletics Director at Nebraska and given his past ventures, he will not accept the product Miles has previously put on the floor. Moos’ previous jobs include Athletics Director at Oregon and Washington State, two schools who improved drastically while Moos was there. Granted, Moos had significant marketing advantages in his past jobs, at Oregon specifically.
Regardless, Miles will have his work cut out for him if he intends to keep his job. Nebraska was recently predicted to finish 13th in the Big Ten, only ahead of Rutgers. A brutal non-conference schedule that features Kansas, Creighton, Boston College, and North Dakota, among others awaits them too.
For Miles, it does not help that he brings in a roster that lost four players to transfer and only has three seniors. Not to mention, the roster does not bolster any “eye-popping” talent although Miles believes Glynn Watson Jr. can be an All-Big Ten player. They did bring in Isaac Copeland from Georgetown, but he’ll need time to learn the system too.
None the less, Miles is always optimistic, regardless of what the projections say. There are several factors working against Tim Miles and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2017-18. Perhaps the one positive note for Miles is that he is under contract with the Huskers until 2020. None the less, winning basketball games on a consistent basis, especially in conference play, will be a challenge. However, Tim Miles has proven he can accept and conquer challenges, see Colorado State and his first two seasons in Lincoln. As of now though, if Tim Miles wants to keep his job, it will be a steep hill to climb.