It may have taken a few days longer than expected, but Nebraska head coach Tim Miles finally got his new assistant coach on Thursday night.
HuskerOnline.com first reported on Saturday that Western Illinois head coach Jim Molinari would join Miles's staff to replace departed assistant Craig Smith, who left to become head coach at South Dakota last month. Five days later, the 59-year-old Molinari announced his resignation at WIU after six seasons with the Leathernecks.
Though his announcement was taken by many as the final step before he finalized his move to the Huskers, Miles and Molinari officially confirmed it in a press release on Friday afternoon.
"It was difficult decision because I love my players and Western Illinois University," Molinari said. "I am extremely excited and blessed that the Lord has opened this door to partner with Tim and his staff to continue to build on their success at a very special place - Nebraska.
"What drew me to Nebraska is that you pick a person as much as you do a place," Molinari said. "I think the challenge of trying to do something special on a national stage, and I obviously have a love and admiration for the Big Ten having been a part of it for three years at Minnesota."
Molinari brings a wealth of coaching experience with him to Lincoln, as he boasts 20 years as a head coach and 34 years of college coaching experience. He recorded his 300th career victory last season after going 79-104 at Western Illinois in his six seasons, moving his career head coaching record to 302-290.
After 10 seasons as an assistant at DePaul from 1979-89, Molinari served two years as head coach at Northern Illinois and then 11 years as Bradley's head coach. He then was an assistant at Minnesota from 2004-06 before taking over for Dan Monson as the Gophers' interim head coach during the '06-07 season.
The Chicago-area native took over at WIU in 2008 and led the Leathernecks to two CBI appearances, their first Division I postseason berths in program history, and won the 2012-13 Summit League regular season championship with a 22-9 campaign. Molinari was named the 2013 Summit League Coach of the Year for his effort and was also a finalist for the Hugh Durham Award, given to the top mid-major coach in college basketball.
During his 34 seasons as a head coach and an assistant, Molinari coached in 12 NCAA Tournaments, seven NITs and two CBIs. He's also been named coach of the year in three different conference - Mid-Continent (Northern Illinois), Missouri Valley (Bradley) and Summit (WIU).
"Today is a great day for Husker Hoops," Miles said. "Adding Coach Molinari to our staff can help elevate us to the next level. He's a great coach and a better person. We are very fortunate he's joining us. He brings a wealth of coaching and recruiting experience. He's coached in the Final Four as an assistant. He's taken his own team to the NCAA Tournament at two different universities, and he's recruited NBA players. Jim has had every conceivable experience a coach can have, and he will have a major impact on our program."
Miles and Molinari actually faced off against each other just this past season, with Western Illinois giving all the Huskers all they could handle in a 62-47 NU win in Lincoln back on Nov. 12, 2013. Miles was extremely complimentary of Molinari and the Leathernecks after the game.
"Jim Molinari is a friend of mine," Miles said in November. "He's really a good coach. He's been on the bench at the Final Four with DePaul. He's taken his Bradley team to the NCAA Tournament. He's been right there in the championship game of the Summit League with his Western Illinois team. So you know it's just going to get mucked up out there and they're not going to stop. They're not going to stop. And that's what happened. We kind of got a little tired. They stayed on the attack."
Molinari was also very impressed with the job Miles had done at Nebraska in just his second season with the Huskers.
"This is a beautiful place, there's an energy in here and Tim Miles is an energized guy," Molinari said after the game. "There's an energy through the whole program. I thought they were extremely well prepared and took away a lot of us."