After 12-19 year, Huskers’ Miles wants to reward AD’s faith
For three straight years, Nebraska has played abysmal basketball at the end of the season, come in 11th or worse in the Big Ten and failed to make a postseason tournament.
A lot of places, that would get the coach fired. Not at Nebraska, a program that hasn’t won or shared a regular-season conference championship since 1950.
In a tweet minutes after the Cornhuskers lost to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament last week, athletic director Shawn Eichorst threw Tim Miles a lifeline for at least one more year.
”He’s a man that believes in us, supports us,” Miles said. ”Even when we were struggling, he wouldn’t waver. Although the media has a field day with it, I guess they’re just bored. He’s been there, and I’m going to come through for him. We’re going to show him his faith in us is justified.”
Eichorst did not extend Miles’ contract after last season, and as of Tuesday there had been no announcement on whether any years would be added to his deal. Miles’ contract would be down to three years starting April 1, when he’s set to begin earning $2.25 million a year.
Miles and his staff have a lot of work to do to improve an offensively-challenged team that finished 12-19, tying the program record for losses.
”I don’t want to be the negative guy or the guy that’s just the naysayer, but I feel like we had a lot of goals going into the season,” forward Michael Jacobson said. ”I feel like we had the right pieces, the right tools and we didn’t get it done. It was just a disappointment.”
Nebraska was just 6-6 against one of the nation’s toughest nonconference schedules. There were losses to UCLA, Kansas and Creighton, but also an embarrassing one at home to Gardner-Webb. The Huskers opened Big Ten play 3-0, including road wins over Indiana and Maryland, for their best conference start since 1975-76. Then they lost 13 of their last 16.
The regular-season ended with a 93-57 loss to Michigan, the most lopsided home defeat in program history.
The Huskers’ problems were compounded by injuries. Anton Gill, a transfer from Louisville, blew out his knee on Christmas night. Ed Morrow Jr., the strongest post defender, sat out seven games with a foot problem. Glynn Watson Jr., Jordy Tshimanga and Isaiah Roby also missed time with ailments.
By season’s end, Miles said, the Huskers were worn out mentally.
”We all, as a team, wanted to play hard for him,” Jacobson said. ”I think we all love Coach Miles. Awesome guy, obviously. I think he’s a great coach. I’m happy to have him back.”
The Huskers relied on senior guard Tai Webster to carry the scoring lead. He averaged 17 points and scored in double figures every game except the regular-season finale against Michigan.
As of Tuesday, everybody except Webster and Nick Fuller (transferring) is set to return. Transfers James Palmer Jr. (Miami) and Isaac Copeland (Georgetown) will become eligible and incoming freshman Nana Akenten will join the team.
”I like our depth,” Miles said. ”I like where we’re going.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington, D.C., contributed.
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