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September 24, 2012

Coleman makes tough choice, leaves NU for Bradley

After news broke on Saturday evening that Nebraska director of player development Ronald "Chin" Coleman was reportedly leaving to take an assistant coaching job at Bradley, the move became official on Monday.

Shortly after Bradley's athletic department sent out a release announcing Coleman's addition to head coach Geno Ford's staff, Coleman spoke to HuskerOnline.com to talk about his decision to leave the Huskers after just six months on the job.

He said it came down to a matter of pursuing his career goal of being a full-time assistant, though he admitted the hardest part was leaving NU head coach Tim Miles behind.

"I've for nothing but love for Coach Miles, and I'm forever indebted to him," Coleman said. "I'll always be loyal to him. It was tough, but at the same time, it was an opportunity for me to do some things and to do what I love doing. So I was going back and forth with that. I didn't want to feel like I was letting Coach Miles down and Nebraska and the kids here in the program that I got to know so well.

"I didn't want to feel like I was letting them down, but at the same time, I had to weigh in on what this particular move would do for me and my career and what it is that I love doing. The biggest hesitation was Coach Miles and the staff that I was close to and the kids, and just the experience that I've had here at Nebraska has been wonderful. But I also had to take into account what was best for me and my career. Just looking at a bunch of the pros and cons, I felt good about making the move."

Coleman was the first hire to Miles' staff after he took over at Nebraska back in April. His addition generated a lot of buzz because of his strong connections to the Chicago AAU scene from his time as head coach of the AAU power Mac Irvin Fire as well as at the Chicago high school level.

Coleman, who served as an assistant under Miles last season at Colorado State, said he knew there was a chance he could have the title of full-time assistant if he came to Nebraska, and also that there as just as good of a chance he couldn't.

"I always knew that it was a 50-50 chance," Coleman said. "I always knew that it was a 50-50 opportunity that I could be on the road (recruiting) or I could not be on the road. (Miles) didn't know exactly what he was going to do with the staff initially."

When Miles finally put together his three-man coaching staff in May, Coleman was resigned to the director of player development role while Ben Johnson, Craig Smith and finally Chris Harriman were named Miles' assistants.

Coleman said he took Miles' decision in stride, and until schools started approaching him about becoming an assistant - including both Bradley and Illinois - he was committed to helping build Nebraska into a winning program. He said Bradley initially contacted about the job two weeks ago.

"When he decided to put me in the role he decided to put me in, I was fine with it because I believe in Coach Miles, and I was going to do whatever I could do to help better the situation at Nebraska," Coleman said. "In that particular role, I was going to do whatever it was that I could do to be a team player and make sure that I'm doing more than enough to help us become a respectable basketball program. At the same time, I guess because of my skill sets and my connections and my talents and my ability, a few opportunities began to present themselves to me. So I wasn't actively looking, no."

The chance to move back to Illinois and be a little less than three hours from his hometown of Chicago was definitely part of the draw to Bradley, but Coleman said it had more to do with being a part of a program with rich basketball tradition.

Before a few down years of late, the Braves made it all the way to the Sweet 16 in 2006 and have qualified for eight NCAA tournaments, including playing in two Final Fours and two national title games.

"(Location) was part of the draw," Coleman said. "Also, what was part of the draw was that Bradley basketball has been good since the 1950s. I mean, Bradley basketball is huge in the city of Peoria. I mean, they have 8,500 season ticket holders. They're top-30 in the country in attendance. They're playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, who's RPI had it the seventh-best league in the country. I know the history. I know the tradition. I know the possibilities of what that situation can become.

"I know the head coach, Geno Ford, and what he's done and his career. He's been to the Sweet 16 with Kent State, so he's won and he knows how to do it the right way. It was a lot of things that attracted me to the job after the job presented itself. I wasn't attracted to it before (they offered) at all. I only became initially interested in it when they approached me."

As difficult as it was to break the news to Miles that he was leaving, Coleman said Miles was nothing but supportive of his decision.

"Coach Miles was very supportive," Coleman said. "Me and him, we've got a friendship as well as a working relationship, so as a friend, he was supportive and he understood what this opportunity does for me. He was very positive about it. Our friendship will remain."

Having been a part of Miles' rebuilding process at Nebraska for nearly all of the first sixth months on the job, Coleman could say in confidence that the Huskers had the right man to turn the program around. While he'll be taking his talents to Bradley, Coleman said it would only be a matter of time before NU became a regular player on the national scene.

"I think Nebraska basketball is in great hands," Coleman said. "I mean, you've got a guy who has a recipe for turning programs around. He's done it at every level. I don't see anything but that happening in this situation. He has the know-how, he has the blueprint, he has the strong staff, guys who are committed to the cause and will work hard to get it done. I think the future of Nebraska basketball is very bright. These guys are going to get it done. These guys are going to work their tails off and they're going to get it done."



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