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Doc Sadler

NU coach Doc Sadler celebrates his team's upset of Texas at the Devaney Sports Center on Feb. 19, 2011. Sadler resigned Thursday as Southern Mississippi's head coach.

Doc Sadler has resigned at Southern Mississippi and is a strong candidate to join Fred Hoiberg's staff at Nebraska.

The gregarious former Nebraska basketball head coach who was replaced by Tim Miles could be headed back to Lincoln, this time as an assistant on Hoiberg's staff, a source told the Journal Star on Wednesday.

"I really don’t have a comment right now for you," Sadler told the Journal Star Thursday morning shortly after the news broke. "But I look forward to visiting with Coach Hoiberg more about the position."

Southern Mississippi released a statement announcing Sadler's departure Thursday morning.

"I've decided it's time for me to take a step back from being a head coach," Sadler said in the statement. 

Later, at a press conference announcing his resignation, Sadler said it was "a good possibility he would be heading to Nebraska." He planned to travel to Lincoln and meet face-to-face with Hoiberg this weekend. 

Sadler was an assistant on Hoiberg's 2013-14 Iowa State team that went 28-8, advanced to the Sweet 16 and finished ninth in the final AP Top 25 poll that season.

He left for Southern Mississippi after that year.

Now, he's leaving Southern Miss and could be coming back to Lincoln. Sadler went 101-87 in six seasons at the helm for NU, taking the Huskers to the NIT three times.

"After 16 years as a college head coach, it's time to evaluate what's next for me," Sadler said in the statement. "With a new athletic director in place and a talented young team, I feel the best days are ahead for Southern Miss basketball."

Sadler was fired after the 2011-12 season, Nebraska's first in the Big Ten, after NU went 12-18 and 4-14 in the conference. Beloved by the Nebraska fan base, Sadler finished with winning records in four of his six seasons on the Nebraska sideline. But he never finished above .500 in conference play.

He fits the mold of the defensive coach Hoiberg is looking for. Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said last week Hoiberg was "in hot pursuit" of a defensive coach for his staff. Three of Sadler's Nebraska teams finished in the top 22 nationally in defensive efficiency and were also strong in keeping opponents off the offensive glass, according to data from KenPom.

The 58-year-old, who has been the head coach at Southern Mississippi since 2014, had just started working for a new athletic director in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss last week hired Troy athletic director Jeremy McClain to the same position. Sadler went 56-94 at Southern Miss, but that comes with a caveat — the Golden Eagles are coming off a 20-win season and Sadler has improved the team's record in each of the past four seasons.

Sadler made an annual salary of $350,000 at Southern Miss. While he'll take a pay cut if he comes back to Nebraska, it likely won't be a significant one. The pool of money for Hoiberg's three assistants is $1 million. With Matt Abdelmassih making $380,000, that leaves $620,000 to divide among the remaining two assistant positions.

A source told the Journal Star on Wednesday that Nebraska's final two assistant coach positions should be finalized by the weekend.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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