There's a lot to think about this week, so we better take a drive.
1. Something Fran Dunphy said this week made me think of Tim Miles' situation.
With Temple's loss to Belmont on Tuesday night in the NCAA Tournament, Dunphy heads into retirement after 30 years as a head coach, the last 13 with the Owls. He was asked earlier this week if he was feeling nostalgic. He said he wasn't because he was busy getting his team prepared. Busy doing his job.
"So you don't have much time or desire to think about yourself," he told reporters.
My guess is Nebraska coach Tim Miles thinks along those lines. I hope he does. It's the right way for a leader to think. Yes, even an embattled leader. Granted, Miles' situation is different than Dunphy's in that Miles most likely will be dismissed at season's end. But in both cases, plenty of emotion is involved.
I've heard folks portray Miles' current situation as being delicate and awkward, especially in the wake of reports this week about Fred Hoiberg possibly being targeted by NU as Miles' successor. Some think Miles is being treated poorly by his boss. They think Bill Moos should've fired Miles after the Big Ten Tournament and appointed an assistant to lead the team in the NIT.
Yes, the situation is less than ideal. But I'm not buying into all the dramatic talk.
Miles has a job to do. He's in a volatile, bottom-line profession. He understood when he entered the profession that he could be faced with these type of conditions — coaching while on the hot seat or while flat-out knowing he was going to be fired. Nobody wishes that on a coach. But it happens in big-time athletics. It's never fun to watch it play out. It frankly sucks. But it's manageable. It's certainly nothing to be maudlin about.
Hardship is a single mom trying to figure out how to feed and clothe her kids. Hardship is a father working two (or three) jobs to keep everything afloat. I think plenty of people in Nebraska right now have a pretty keen understanding of what hardship means.
Miles makes $48,100 per week to do what he loves. He's paid to get his players ready to play. He's paid to get them ready for life. Granted, he's doing it under challenging circumstances, and it might continue for several days. His players can learn a lot from him. He's handled the situation well to this point, as a professional should, and I'm guessing that will continue.
Nebraska 75, Butler 68. See you at the arena.
2. Ticket sales for tonight's game already have eclipsed the 9,700 mark, according to Nebraska executive associate AD Marc Boehm. He tweeted he thinks sales should hit the 10,000 mark at tip.
"Big salute to the most passionate/loyal fan base in the country," Boehm added.
I sometimes snicker at such grand proclamations. I'll withhold snickers in this case. Check out NIT attendance from Tuesday night:
3/20 NIT Attendance vs Capacity— Nathaniel Walters (@nathanielhusker) March 20, 2019
Memphis 8,138/18,119; 45%
Creighton 5,755/15,500; 37%
NC State 5,500/5,500; 100%
Indiana 5,431/17,472; 31%
UNCG 4,459/23,500; 19%
Providence 3,057/12,993; 24%
Clemson 1,718/9,000; 19%
Texas 1,739/16,540; 11%
Davidson 1,647/4,277; 39%
So, the eyes of Texas clearly weren't on the NIT.
It appears the Shaka Smart excitement has worn thin in Austin, Texas. A crowd of 1,739? Seriously?
Granted, the Texas-Arkansas baseball game being played simultaneously at nearby Disch-Falk Field drew 6,208. Even so, the crowd in the Frank Erwin Center to watch South Dakota State vs. Texas was alarmingly sparse. I watched the game on television and couldn't believe my eyes. It makes you wonder how many of those fans traveled from South Dakota.
3. You might say at this point that I'm irrationally fixated on Andy Katz's low expectations for the Nebraska basketball program.
"Nebraska's never been a basketball powerhouse, and I don't know if they ever will be," the national hoops analyst said last week on BTN. "They'll be a program that, every once in a while, maybe can get in the NCAA Tournament. …"
Make it stop!
Graham Couch, terrific columnist for the Lansing (Michigan) State Journal, expressed a much different viewpoint after covering Michigan State's win Jan. 17 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
"Penn State, take notice," he wrote. "Or any school that views life through the lens of its football program, but would like to start something in hoops and bring some sizzle to a long winter. Nebraska is how you do it. They’ve made basketball a thing.
"The Huskers haven’t won enough to credit winning for the buzz. They’ve won just enough to keep the community’s interest and to increase expectations. It starts with the arena, Pinnacle Bank, which opened in 2013. It has a glitzy, big-time feel to it while pulling off a cozy vibe. Not easy to do. It helps that it's in the middle of a desirable nightlife and hotel district near downtown.
"I haven’t seen a school with so much football tradition and emphasis — and so little relevant basketball history — do hoops this well. There’s a reason Tim Miles is on the hot seat. You can win here now. You should win here."
Preach on, amigo. Preach on.
4. OK, we better work in some football talk on this drive.
Nebraska running backs coach Ryan Held had some interesting things to say recently about … the Husker defensive backs.
Asked which players in the program made the most obvious physical improvement during the offseason, Held pointed to the DBs.
"I think they've really transformed," he said. "From a culture standpoint — and I don't coach that side of the ball — but I think coach (Travis) Fisher and coach (Jack) Cooper and those guys have done a great job with them. I think when we first got here as a staff that was a group that I don't know if I would've wanted to hang out with, to be honest with you.
"But now, I would hang out with those guys. They're great. They're coachable. The culture's changed. I really think that group is talented, and I'm excited to see what they can do. You have to have a good secondary to win at any level."
5. I was on quite an obnoxious rant this morning on "Early Break" (93.7 FM) as myself and co-host Jake Sorensen tried to point out that the NIT is old hat around here, that it's time to make regular appearances in the Big Dance.
To help make the "old hat" point, I noted that the grunge era of rock and Kurt Cobain were thriving back in 1996 when Erick Strickland led Nebraska to the NIT championship in Madison Square Garden. That team also had Bernard Garner, Jaron Boone, Mikki Moore, Terrance Badgett, Andy Markowski, Tom Wald, Chris Sallee, Tyronn Lue and Venson Hamilton, among others.
It seems like an NIT title meant more back then.
Here's the problem: Cobain died in April of 1994. Several listeners chimed in to point out my mistake. As a grunge fan back in the day, I felt awful. My apologies to Cobain fans everywhere.
6. Bring on March Madness. …
Larry Bird should get to enter every room like this for the rest of his life. pic.twitter.com/w6DbEVIqyZ— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) March 20, 2019