LINCOLN — Tim Miles is well aware that the Nebraska men's basketball landscape is far more briar patch right now than garden spot.
The Huskers have finished last in their league two of the past three seasons. The droughts for NCAA tournament appearances and NBA draft choices have reached 14 and 13 years.
Veteran sportswriters voted NU last on 23 of 24 ballots in the preseason poll for the Big Ten — a league that is expected to be the nation's strongest for the third straight season.
So what does a new coach do under those conditions?
“This is my fifth reclamation project,” said Miles, who signed a seven-year contract in March with starting pay of $1.4 million annually. “You just have to dig in.”
So far, Miles has earned praise and attention for his bubbly personality and funky use of social media. Don't expect anything off the wall, though, in declaring what he hopes to accomplish by season's end.
“I hope our guys fully understand our system,” he said.
“It's as simple as that. If at the end of the year we know this group can teach the incoming group what's to be expected, that's going to help the process.”
Notice no mention of a projected record for the coming season. At his previous stops, Miles' first-year marks were a mixed bag:
At Mayville (N.D.) State, an NAIA Division II school, he was 16-11.
At Southwest Minnesota State, an NCAA Division II school, he was 17-11.
At North Dakota State, a Division II school that was transitioning to Division I, he was 11-15.
At Colorado State, a Division I school in the Mountain West Conference, he went 7-25. And then 9-22. And then 16-16.
Notice a pattern?
“It's always easier to (rebuild quickly) on a smaller level,” Miles said. “When you are an NAIA coach, there are a lot of NAIA players. Heck, everybody is an NAIA player.
“When you are in the Big Ten, there are very few Big Ten players. So the curve is more difficult the higher you go.”
What Miles and the Huskers might accomplish in his first season never came up during his interviews with Nebraska officials.
“I don't recall talking about that or asking anything about the players,” Miles said. “You don't look at it like that.
“You look at the pillars of the job. I looked at the support of the administration. I looked at the fan support. I looked at the physical environment. And the conference. That's why you take a job.”
|To read more from our 2012-13 college basketball preview, click here.|
Miles said he won't bull-headedly install his systems this season and use them exclusively, results be darned. That would be unfair to the players at hand, in general, and specifically to seniors Brandon Ubel, Andre Almeida and Dylan Talley.
“We owe it to them,” the coach said. “Whatever their goals are, we need to fight every minute out here to reach those.”
Posting a good record isn't likely.
Nebraska, coming off records of 12-18 overall and 4-14 in the Big Ten, will use just eight or nine scholarship players this season.
Four of those are new to the program, and two others sat out last season. No returning player scored in double figures a year ago.
Miles paused when asked if he had a message for the Husker fan base about Year 1.
“We want to meet their expectations, but that's not the driving force,” he said. “The driving force is to run the program at the highest level we can.
“There's still only one guy who gets the loss. Only one guy whose name they put in the paper with his record right beside the name. So nobody wants to win worse than that guy. And that guy is me.”
Contact the writer: