CHICAGO — The always witty and humorous Tim Miles was able to make light of his Nebraska men’s basketball team being picked to finish last in the Big Ten Conference for a second straight season.
The second-year Husker coach was telling reporters at Thursday’s Big Ten Media Day how he was taking that to heart and trying to make himself feel better.
“And I came home to talk to my wife,” Miles said, “and she says: Why aren't you out recruiting?’ ”
Laughter ensued, as it usually does when Miles takes the podium at these kind of events.
“We all know the humor’s a deflection, right?” Miles joked later.
Truth be told, Miles really was surprised that reporters didn't have a bit more respect for his team, which won five conference games last season and finished 10th, and now has a deeper and more talented team, although inexperienced.
But then he saw players like Tim Frazier and Drew Crawford returning from injuries to lead Penn State and Northwestern – teams picked just above Nebraska – and realized why his team landed where it did.
“If you look at the facts, I understand,” he said. “But as a competitor, you’re like, ‘No way, no frickin’ way.
“I look up all the way through (our schedule) and go, ‘We can beat those guys, we got those guys, I know we beat those guys last year, we’re going to beat them again.’ You just have that faith in your team that you’re going to do it.
"And I believe in our guys. So I don't think we're going to end up 12th, and I think it's going to be a good thing."
* STAND-UP GUY: Miles had some other one-liners that kept reporters alert as much as the free coffee did.
On his team’s up-and-down play: “Somebody said, ‘Oh, they're going to be like a roller coaster.’ I said, no, we're going to be like an EKG.”
On comparing his team to the success of Connie Yori and the NU women’s team: “Connie and I are both picked 12th. She’s 12th in the country; I’m 12th in the league.”
On the overall success of Nebraska athletics: “We won the bowling deal. I watched that on ESPN. I was going nuts.”
On social media: “Twitter is an art form for me. Sometimes you think it’s a portrait, and it’s a landscape.”
* RAVE REVIEWS: Speaking of social media, reporters used it to chime in on Miles’ time up front.
Nicole Auerback, USA Today: “I wish every coach did press conferences like Tim Miles.”
Pat Forde, Yahoo sports: “Miles’ team may not be Top 100 nationally, but he’s Top 10 funny.”
Bob Kravitz, Indianapolis Star: “I don’t know if I wanna see Nebraska play, but I’d check out Tim Miles at an open-mic night.”
Purdue’s Black and Gold.com: “I feel compelled to tip Tim Miles when his press conference is over.”
* PITCHFORD RETURNS: Sophomore forward Walter Pitchford has returned to practice and is doing well after sitting out with tendinitis in his right shoulder.
Pitchford played 19 minutes in Nebraska’s closed scrimmage Sunday against South Dakota State. Those who saw the scrimmage, won by South Dakota State in a close outcome, said Nebraska had a difficult time scoring in a game that was foul-plagued.
To wit: Nebraska held SDSU scoreless for the scrimmage’s first 4-5 minutes, yet led only 2-0.
* WEBSTER TALK: Reporters in one-on-one interviews with Miles were intrigued with freshman guard Tai Webster.
Miles said Webster, a New Zealand native, will be in the starting lineup and is someone “who’s going to play a lot of minutes for us” but is still acclimating from international basketball.
“He’s a really good player,” Miles said. “Now, acclimating to the system is different. Whether it’s on defense, ‘Hey we’re going to double the post here, this is where you got to rotate,’ and he’s like, ‘Whoa, whoa.’ So let’s take it down a notch.
“That’s going to take some time for being a complete player ... but he’ll pick it up, and I've seen him get better in practice.”