Editor’s note: Tom Wald played at Nebraska during the 1994-95 and 1995-1996 seasons. He currently lives in Grand Island where he is executive vice president for sales and marketing at TOBA, Inc.
Tim Miles’ days as the Nebraska men’s basketball coach are over. He’s kaput. Finished. It’s been decided. It’s all over social media. We are all watching “Dead Man Walking.”
Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos was brought in to take scalps. He’s already taken the first, ridding Husker Nation of a less-than-Nebraska-like performance from Mike Riley as the football coach, and replacing him with a native son possessing first-hand knowledge of the way it used to be and how to get us back there.
The next scalp to be taken, allegedly, belongs to Miles. It’s not if, but rather when. The rumors of who his replacement will be are swirling: Fred Hoiberg (his grandfather coached at Nebraska); Dana Altman (he went to college in Nebraska); or Tyronn Lue (enough said). Heck, I’ve even heard Dwyane Wade.
Allow me to be the voice of reason.
Nebraska basketball and Nebraska football are completely different animals. The culture is different. The expectations are different. They require different approaches, and I absolutely support Moos’ move to bring back Scott Frost. Nebraska basketball has no native son with first-hand knowledge of how to make Nebraska a winning program again because Nebraska has never sustained winning for an extended period of time.
Even in the heyday of Danny Nee when he achieved four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, it ended abruptly soon after because it was a house of cards, not a foundation of excellence. The team I played on contained more pure, raw talent (as is witnessed by post-Nebraska success of our players) than any in the program’s 120-plus-year history. Yet with all that talent, we finished seventh in the Big Eight Conference both in 1994-1995 and 1995-1996. It takes more than talent to win, as we are all painfully aware.
Nebraska basketball, though in the midst of a painful season, is building a solid foundation for success, and I would argue that it’s closer than it appears. Miles is the person building that foundation. He is doing it the correct way. Success is near. He deserves more time. He deserves all the time in the world, if he is willing to continue to improve his tool box and has the energy to continue pushing himself, his staff and his team to do the same.
We are all human. One of the most human things we do is err. Nobody is perfect. I’m sure if you asked Tim himself, he would admit that he has made mistakes this season. Perhaps he didn’t develop his bench as much as he could have. Perhaps some of the mistakes happened earlier than this season when he chose the players for this team without selecting a pure leader that could take control of this team. I’ll bet he has learned from his mistakes. I’ll bet he makes different decisions in the future. What we forget is that we are not stagnant as humans. Nobody stays the same. We are either getting better or we are getting worse. As long as we have the will to improve — and the support — we tend to do just that.
The absolute only reason to take Miles’ scalp at this point is if he has given up. I don’t see anything to suggest that is the case. He is still fighting. He is still trying to get his kids, and they are just kids by the way, to respond.
I have watched this movie too many times in recent history.
How about football? Remember Frank Solich? What if we had stayed the course? If you remember, a new athletics director came in to take a scalp, and boy did he do a number. Solich to Callahan? Callahan to Pelini and Pelini to Riley …
Husker football is one thing. Husker basketball is another.
Danny Nee was fired and replaced by Barry Collier. The hype was intense. Collier had taken Butler to three NCAA Tournaments in four seasons, winning at least 22 games each of his past four. If he could do it at Butler, surely he could do it at Nebraska? After six seasons, we pulled the plug.
After Collier, we brought in Doc Sadler. Another up-and-comer, Sadler took UTEP — UTEP! — to the NCAA Tournament in 2004-2005 after a 27-win season. He entered as Nebraska’s coach with a .781 winning percentage. Surely then we would have a winner? After six seasons, we pulled the plug. Rinse. Repeat.
Enter Miles. Yes, he’s in his seventh season. And yes, we thought after the 2013-2014 season that we had turned the corner. I’m sure he, too, is unhappy with the results. But what would have happened had the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee not performed a monumental disservice by snubbing the Huskers last season after finishing fourth in the Big Ten Conference. Ahh, the Big Ten was weak last year we were told. Yet Michigan reached the national championship game? The Big Ten wasn’t weak.
Nebraska beat Michigan toward the end of the season by 20 points. That defeat to the Huskers led Michigan coach John Beilein to change his defensive game plan, which fueled his run toward the title game. Take a look at where the fourth-rated team in the Big Ten is seeded in this year’s tournament. That’s where Nebraska should have been seeded last year. The “experts” not only cheated the Huskers, but they cheated Miles as well.
Imagine if Nebraska had been a four-seed last season. Imagine a team winning its first game in NCAA Tournament history (beating a No. 13 seed). Imagine a team that got hot and advanced to the Sweet 16 (most likely beating a No. 5 seed). We wouldn’t be having this discussion at all. We’d be discussing a disappointing season, for sure. But not scalps.
Yeah, I know: If “ifs” and “buts” were “candy” and “nuts” we’d all have a Merry Christmas.
Comments on social media do not tell an accurate story. Social media is the least social thing on the planet. Have you ever seen a more anti-social medium? I mean let’s create a place where people can be extremely rude to one another, or about someone they have never met, saying things they’d never say to someone in person. If you read the Facebook and Twitter comments, you get a lot of pretty harsh criticism of the Husker basketball program. Go to Pinnacle Bank Arena on a game day, however, and you see something completely different. There, you see loyal Husker fans still packing the stands and cheering on the coach and team.
I believe in Husker Nation. I believe they are still behind this team and this coach. If you tune out the anti-social media and talk to everyday Nebraskans, there is a lot of support for this program and Miles. They desperately want to cheer for a winner. This state will go berserk when the tradition Miles is building at Husker basketball finally turns the corner.
I have met Moos. I have a lot of respect for what he has accomplished in prior positions, and what he is tasked with doing at Nebraska. It takes a special type of person to run an entire athletic department, and I wish him the greatest success while serving as Nebraska’s AD. If he wins, we all win. Sometimes the correct decision is not to take a scalp.
Sometimes a person with first-hand knowledge on how not to do things needs to lend support when he sees it being done the right way. Let Miles know that as long as he has the desire and will to improve as a person and a coach, that we support him.
Mr. Moos, Husker Nation will support that decision.