03/10 17:26 CDT Tim Miles' popularity soaring among Nebraska fans
Tim Miles' popularity soaring among Nebraska fans
AP Sports Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) --- Maybe Tim Miles really is a miracle worker.
Men's basketball is still relevant at Nebraska in March, the time of year when
spring football typically dominates the sports conversation in the Cornhusker
state. Instead, it's all hoops, all the time right now and all eyes are on
The energetic, quick-witted 47-year-old was hired in March 2012 and sold the
dream of someday leading the Huskers to the NCAA tournament and winning when
they got there.
Skeptical fans, accustomed to disappointment, said they would believe it when
they see it. Well, the time might be coming sooner than anyone imagined.
Nebraska (19-11) heads to Indianapolis for the Big Ten tournament after winning
10 of their last 12 games to finish fourth in the conference. The
court-storming student section was, in a word, nuts during Sunday's 77-68 upset
of then-No. 9 Wisconsin. The rest of the sellout crowd showed up loud and
proud, too, and responded favorably to Miles' plea to stand and make noise the
"You're seeing a euphoric state of mind with our fans, and rightly so," said
Marc Boehm, the executive associate athletic director who oversees the program.
"It's happened quickly, it's happened unexpectedly, and that's the beauty of
Miles has connected with students and the rest of the fans like no other new
Nebraska coach has before. He's a voracious user of social media, and he shares
in-game thoughts with some 62,000 followers with his halftime tweets. He
high-fives students as he enters the arena, and he poses for pictures on the
court after games.
He gladly obliged a couple months ago when a man asked him to shoot a video to
be used in a wedding proposal. He's quick to tell stories about his small-town
South Dakota upbringing and to poke fun at himself for ranking in the bottom
half in a graduating class of 13.
Of course, good will lasts only so long. Fans want to see results, and Miles is
succeeding on that front, too. The Huskers' 11 conference wins are two more
than the total of the last two years and the most by a Nebraska team since
"I really thought if this team could get to .500 in the league, it would be a
special accomplishment," Miles said. "For us to go 11-7 in this league, which
is (ranked) one or two in the country, is really an amazing performance by our
It looked like the same old Nebraska after a 15-point loss to Creighton and a
31-point stinker at Ohio State. The Huskers were picked to finish last in the
Big Ten, and they lost four straight and five of six to begin conference play.
"We were all kind of on our own agendas and didn't really know how to play with
each other," Terran Petteway said.
Petteway, who transferred from Texas Tech, is scoring 18 points a game in
Miles' motion offense and is a contender for Big Ten player of the year. The
6-foot-10 Walter Pitchford, a transfer from Florida, is a double-figure scorer
who is a reliable 3-point shooter. Shields, who signed with former coach Doc
Sadler in 2011, averages 13 points but could go off for 30 any night.
Defensively, the Huskers held eight straight opponents under 40-percent
shooting before Wisconsin shot 43 percent Sunday.
"You recruit the right kind of guys, coach them the right way and good things
happen," Miles said.
Nebraska would love to win at least a game or two in the Big Ten tournament but
is confident it already has secured its first NCAA tournament bid since 1998.
"That's not even a question in my mind when you play like that in this league,"
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
This breakthrough season has been in the works since the administration decided
to get serious about basketball. Former athletic director Tom Osborne oversaw
the construction of one of the nation's best practice facilities. The team
moved this season from the outdated Devaney Sports Center to the new Pinnacle
Bank Arena, and sellouts were routine.
Miles turned struggling programs into winners in 12 years at non-Division I
levels. Then, at Colorado State, he took a seven-win team in 2007-08 to the
NCAA tournament in 2011-12.
Boehm said he's not worried about Miles, who has five years left on his
contract, being scooped up by another school. Miles has shown he loves a
challenge and, with no conference titles since 1950 and an all-time NCAA
tournament record of 0-6, Nebraska is one of the biggest.
"It's really a different day and age, and there's no better time to be the
basketball coach at Nebraska," Miles said. "I'm very fortunate to have things
other coaches didn't have at their disposal."