If there's one thing you can say about Tim Miles, it's the man certainly knows how to work a room.
Miles, who was officially announced as Nebraska's 26th men's head basketball coach in a press conference Saturday at the Hendricks Center, put his engaging and charming personality on display for media and NU basketball supporters.
Mixing humor and entertaining stories, the 45-year old former Colorado State coach explained what drew him to Nebraska and how exactly he planned to go about turning around the Huskers' program.
With almost his entire family in attendance, Miles got a little choked up early on when talking about leaving his team at Colorado State to come to Lincoln. He said he met with his players after returning to Fort Collins on Friday night following his visit to Nebraska and told them he was leaving.
"As a basketball coach, you're supposed to be a leader," Miles said. "Last night, I didn't feel like much of a leader."
In the end, though, Miles said the opportunity to come to Nebraska was one he simply couldn't pass up.
While there were a number of factors that led him to accept the job, Miles said it basically came down to a matter of perfect timing. With the momentum surrounding Nebraska with the new practice facility and downtown arena and the Huskers becoming new members of the Big Ten Conference this season, Miles said there were only so many times in a coach's career that chances like this come along.
"I don't know what else you'd wish for," Miles said. "I want to be a college basketball coach, and this is one of the finest institutions and athletic departments in the country in the premier league in the country."
Athletic director Tom Osborne said Miles was the only candidate Nebraska actually offered the job to throughout the coaching search. After meeting Miles and getting to know him, Osborne said he was nothing but impressed with Miles' vision for the program, his recruiting plan, and his track record of turning struggling teams into winners.
"He's done some remarkable things in some situations that were very difficult," Osborne said.
As Miles fielded questions from reporters, it became very clear that coaching the Big Ten was one of the biggest selling points for Miles. Coaching in what he called the best conference in college basketball had been a dream since he was a kid, Miles said, and he even said that if Nebraska was still a member of the Big 12, there's a chance he might not have taken the job.
Another hot topic during his press conference was how exactly he planned to rebuild Nebraska the way he had at Colorado State and nearly every other stop along his coaching career.
Miles said recruiting was obviously essential, and he touched on a few of his philosophies in the regard. For one, he said assembling a top-notch coaching staff around him was as important as anything. There has been much speculation that Miles will bring former CSU assistant and ace recruiter Ron Coleman with him to Nebraska, which would be a big step in establishing the kind staff he needs.
Coleman has a huge recruiting footprint in the Big Ten region, especially in the Chicago area, where he once coached one of the country's elite AAU teams.
However, Miles said he hasn't made any official moves regarding his staff and would not comment much on whether Coleman would join him at NU or who else he planned to bring on. Miles did say he was hopeful one of his former assistants would replace him as head coach at Colorado State.
"I haven't made any decisions of any kind on that," Miles said. "I need to get away. This has been whirlwind, just getting the job right. Staffing is, I mean, that's the next biggest thing to me. So that's not something you rush into. I'm always hopeful one of my assistants can get the head-coaching job. You're always hopeful of that. So I think we want to see how that shakes out. But we're going to build a staff that can do it right."
The other major aspect in Miles' recruiting strategy was to "win the locker room first", meaning he wants to target players who are fully invested in Nebraska and building the program. He wants to go after in-state talent - so long as they're good enough - and players with an equal amount of skill and character.
With the NCAA planning to raise the minimum team Academic Progress Rate (APR), which measure a program's overall academic performance, Miles said there would also have to be a stronger focus on recruiting good students and not just good players.
The current APR is 925 - the equivalent of 50 percent graduation rate - and the NCAA plans to raise it 930 starting in the 2013-14 season.
"I'm going to recruit Nebraska," Miles said. "I'm going to recruit our immediate region. If you're going to win, you've got win your locker room first. If we don't win the locker room, we're not going to win the games. If those guys in the locker room when the coach isn't around aren't on board, if they're not bleeding red, if they're not what we're all about… we've got a problem. So I want guys that are invested in the University of Nebraska. I want guys that can compete at a championship level in the Big Ten, that can get us to the NCAA Tournament. But we have to win our locker room first."
As far as X's and O's go, Miles said he plans to stick with his motion style offense and man-to-man defense. Playing in the Big Ten, however, he said often times you have to adjust your style depending on your opponent.
"People ask me, 'what's your style of play? Are your going to play fast, slow, whatever?'" Miles said. "We know the Big Ten, tempo-wise, is a slower conference… We want to play winning basketball. If that means we're running down the floor, we're going to run down the floor. If that means we have to work the shot clock to two, we're going to work the shot clock to two."
Miles said he planned to meet with Nebraska's returning players each one-on-one over the next couple of days, and he will also reach out to the Huskers' five commits for next season to get a feel for them and what they bring to the table. He said he would evaluate each player before making any roster decisions.
Off the court, Miles said he was willing to do whatever it took to make himself and the team "more available" to Nebraska students and fans.
He said fan support was one of the biggest factors in building a successful program, and he planned to use a variety of mediums to connect with the fan base, including social media, meeting with students on campus or maybe even a reality show or two (Colorado State's "Season Pass" series actually won an Emmy last year).
Miles said he was well aware of the tough times Nebraska's basketball program and its fans have gone through the past few years, and while it may take some time to rebuild the Huskers into an annual national contender, Miles only asked that Husker Nation give him a chance to try and do it.
"I promise you this: you give us a chance, Husker fans, you give us a chance, we're going to come through for you," Miles said. "We've exceeded expectations everywhere we've been, and I intend to continue to do the same. I know what we're dealing with. We're dealing with the elite basketball conference in the country right now, the Big Ten. It's going to be a blast."
***Asked about his No. 1 short-term goal for the program, Miles' answer was very clear:
"I want to win an NCAA Tournament game," he said. "That's my goal. Let's do it, right? We can do it here. There's no doubt about it. And we will. It's just a matter of time."
***Several people with connections to both Nebraska and Miles helped play a part in getting him to Lincoln. Osborne said he spoke with the likes of Craig Bohl, former NU defensive coordinator and current head coach at North Dakota State, where Miles also coached; former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit, who lives in Fort Collins and is a good friend of Miles; former Nebraska broadcaster Bill Doleman, now an anchor for The MountainWest Sports Network; and even former Husker football great Ndamukong Suh, who has a mutual friend with Miles and called both Osborne and Miles to show his support of the hire.
"When Ndamukong calls, I always listen," Osborne joked, "because if I don't listen he'll break my neck."
***Osborne said former coach Doc Sadler remained in contact with him throughout the hiring process and had been very helpful in whatever ways he could. Osborne said Sadler even called him this morning, and Miles said he spoke with Sadler over the phone Friday night to talk about the program, the Big Ten and other topics.
"I just wanted to reach out to him and say 'hey, you know, I want to recognize, Doc, that I appreciate you, and just watching the way you handled this I think is just so first class," Miles said. "He's a great man. He's a good man. It's hard to replace a guy like that."
***Osborne apologized to media and fans for the lack of communication from the athletic department during the coaching search. He said NU couldn't say much on the potential candidates because it could have created problems with their current schools.
"For those of you in the press, kind of sorry about the process," Osborne said. "I know it would be nice if we gave you a play-by-play and talked to you about who we saw and what they said, but as you know we really can't do that because we're dealing with people's lives."
***Miles said Nebraska's student body was one of the most important demographics of the fan base, and said he wants to make a big effort in reaching out the students to make them as big a part of the game day atmosphere as possible.