Mike Riley

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.

Let's take a drive.

1. Who knew a relatively recent ex-Husker was part of the Alabama football machine in 2013?

I wrote about Jake Peetz's rise in the coaching business in a Monday column (click here).

In 2013, the O'Neill native was an offensive analyst and quarterbacks assistant working under then-Tide offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

Peetz was in charge of the passing-game drawings.

"What that includes are all the pass routes," he said. "Any time we did our (passing game) installation, with the playbooks and what we put on the projector, I would do all the computer drawings."

There was a byproduct of his duties that was particularly beneficial. That is, Peetz had to learn the Alabama defense and its verbiage because when the Tide's offensive coaches broke down an opponent's defense, they had to use terms that head coach Nick Saban could understand.

They needed to speak Saban's language, if you will.

Seems beneficial to speak the language of the best college football coach in the land, right?

"At Alabama, everybody that comes in there (to work) learns coach Saban's terminology," Peetz said.

By the way, Saban had advice for Peetz.

"He told me if you want to be great in this profession, you need to learn and understand defense at a very high level if you want to be good on offense," Peetz said.

It's common sense, really.

"How are you going to develop an offense to attack a defense if you don't understand clearly what the defense is trying to achieve?" Peetz said. "If you don't understand your opponent, you're throwing mud at the wall and seeing if it sticks."

Peetz acutely understands the importance of that 2013 season in Tuscaloosa in his development as a coach.

"I was forced to learn coach Saban's defense at a high level so I could communicate all of that, and that to me put my trajectory at a great incline, because I started to understand defense the way he saw it -- not exactly like he saw it, obviously. I wish ... " Peetz said. "But it helps me so much more on offense to understand (Alabama's defense). And to be around him when he would come in and talk to Nuss and the offensive staff, when we were all in there, and he would talk about, 'These are the concepts you're talking about running, this is what they're doing on defense'  -- because he would watch the opponent's defense, too.

"He would always talk about the 'why.'"

In other words, Saban would say he liked certain plays for precise reasons. He could tell you exactly why.

(I've long maintained "why" is arguably the most important word in our language).

"I was trying to be a sponge because I knew I was in the midst of great coaches," Peetz said. "I wanted to be like them. I didn't want anything they said to go un-analyzed or not understood. I think I'll look back at that experience, working for coach Saban, as the defining moment in my learning and my understanding, and being pushed to the limit."

2. Peetz worked in late 2007 and early 2008 under the legendary Norm Chow at UCLA. So, I dialed up Chow over the weekend to chat about Peetz, and the conversation naturally turned to Mike Riley and Mark Banker.

Chow squared off against Riley and Banker when the two coached at Oregon State from 2003-14. During that period, Chow was an offensive coordinator at USC (2001-04), UCLA (2008-10) and Utah (2011). He was 4-2 against Banker, the Beavers' defensive coordinator who followed Riley to Nebraska.

"The thing about Mark that impressed me all the time was you kind of knew what they were going to do, they just did it so well," Chow said. "I mean, they were somewhat conservative and didn't come after you a lot, but the fact they did what they did so well was something I always admired."

The 70-year-old Chow is retired and living in Manhattan Beach, California, having been fired Nov. 1 as Hawaii's head coach. He was 10-36 in three-plus seasons.

By the way, Banker was runner-up for the Hawaii head-coaching position.

"I wish he had gotten that job -- that was a bad gig," Chow said with a chuckle. "I worked there for four years and had four ADs. You have no chance …"

Chow naturally was surprised in January upon learning Riley fired Banker.

"They had been together for so long …"

3. Having interviewed Chow, I felt compelled to dial up Banker early Saturday evening to tell him Chow said "Hello."

Banker said he’s been busy traveling. For instance, he went to Fresno State recently to visit with the Bulldogs’ defensive staff as a consultant.

He even spent time recently in Austria, helping a friend coach an adult team in Vienna.

Banker is hoping to land a coaching gig, but he has told me in the past that he might be fairly picky about what type of job he takes.

4. Chow, as one might expect, also has high regard for Riley. In fact, if you tire of Riley "nice guy" stories, you should consider skipping ahead to No. 5 on The Drive.

"There was a year when we beat him and as I was driving home with my family, Mike was walking to his team bus," Chow said. "I stopped and wished him well, and the guy wanted to meet my family and wanted to know everyone's name and what they were doing. And he had just gotten beat!

"My youngest boy, who's now a young man, never forgot that. He never forgot how cordial Mike was. And it was sincere. Those type of things go a long way in life."

"Win or lose, he's always the same guy," Chow added. "That's what I admire about him."

5. Kevin Kugler knows college hoops. Yes, he sure does.

Granted, he should be well-versed in that regard, such is the volume of games he calls as a play-by-play man for Westwood One Sports and BTN.

He's called several March Madness games -- he returned Sunday from the West Regional in San Jose, California -- and was kind enough to share some of his wisdom Monday morning on "Early Break" (93.7 FM The Ticket).

Click here for his segment.

One bit of his wisdom stuck out.

He noted South Carolina's prowess on defense.

However, "Gonzaga is a very good defensive team as well, which is going to challenge South Carolina (in the Final Four)," Kugler said. "People will talk a lot about Gonzaga's offense, but they are an underrated defensive team. They shouldn't be underrated, because they are top five in a lot of categories defensively.

"Watch what Gonzaga was able to defensively against West Virginia (in the West Region semifinals). Gonzaga contested 90 percent of West Virginia's shots. It's a ridiculous number."

Kugler likes Gonzaga and North Carolina to reach the finale.

He's got it half right.

A week from today is going to be a heck of a night for Pacific Northwest hoops when Gonzaga and Oregon play for the national crown.

The Pacific Northwest hasn't experienced this much basketball excitement since the Portland Trail Blazers (1977) and Seattle SuperSonics (1979) were winning NBA championships back in the day.

Am I wrong?

6. Indiana's weekend hire of Archie Miller is getting a lot of attention, as it should considering Hoosier hoops' history and brand value (albeit a bit faded).

I admittedly thought Steve Alford was the best man for the Hoosier job, although Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel makes a hell of a case why Miller was the right choice in his Sunday column (click here).

As for Alford, Doyel writes, The younger crowd (of Hoosier fans), those interested in creating tomorrow more than rediscovering yesterday, wanted nothing to do with Alford. They didn’t like his handling of the Pierre Pierce sexual assault allegations at Iowa, but they also didn’t like his resume. He won some at Iowa, yes, he did. Won some more at New Mexico. Won some at UCLA as well, but in 22 years as a Division I head coach had never gone past the Sweet 16.

OK, that's good stuff. But then Doyel comes with a knockout line, the most logical line of reasoning I read all weekend regarding the matter.

If he hadn’t played at Indiana, Steve Alford never would have been a candidate for the IU job.

Think about that for a second.

And enjoy the day.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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