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Kevin Schnepf, Published April 02 2013

Schnepf: Gophers have been late on every coach, including Miles

FARGO - Tim Miles has always had that charm of winning people over – including the scribes and talkers of the Minneapolis media. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking when the Minneapolis Star Tribune floated Miles’ name as a possible candidate for the Minnesota Gopher men’s basketball job.

“Why he could make sense as the next Gophers’ coach,” the Star-Tribune wrote in Tuesday’s sports section. “The current Nebraska coach had stops at Southwest Minnesota State and North Dakota State and therefore is very familiar with recruiting in Gopher land. He also has the kind of personality that can quickly win over a fan base, media members, players and donors.”

Too late for that.

Had Tubby Smith been fired last year instead of last week, Miles – the coach who built NDSU’s NCAA-Tournament team – may well have been the next Gophers coach, making what would have been an obvious move up the ladder from Colorado State.

Instead, Miles already has a Big Ten program, has a million-dollar contract, a lavish practice facility that has big-time coaches drooling and a soon-to-be-christened downtown arena. Miles isn’t going anywhere.

That sentiment in itself begs the question: is coaching the Gophers that great of a job? Not as much as Minnesota athletic officials or some of their boosters think it is.

While Tubby has already landed a job at Texas Tech, the Gophers have been turned down or ignored by targeted candidates like Shaka Smart, Fred Hoiberg, Flip Saunders and Brad Stevens.

If Shaka opted to stay at Virginia Commonwealth, Hoiberg at Iowa State, Saunders at ESPN and Stevens at Butler, do you think Miles is going to leave Nebraska?

Here’s what Miles has at Nebraska that Minnesota doesn’t:

• A practice facility. It’s all the rage if you want to be a player in Division I men’s basketball. Heck, even NDSU has plans to build one.

• A premier arena. As much as us northern Midwesterners love The Barn, I doubt that it leaves much of an impression on big-time recruits.

• Mediocre expectations. With football still the king in Lincoln, Miles has already won over Husker basketball fans with a 15-18 season and a 10th-place finish in the 12-team Big Ten. Even though the Gophers have won only three Big Ten titles since the 1940s, fans seem to expect one every year.

• A college town. In Lincoln, the Huskers are the state’s pro franchise. In Minneapolis, the Gophers play second-fiddle to real pro teams like the Vikings, Wild and Timberwolves. Can you name one premier college basketball program that has to share the spotlight? Let me know if you can think of one.

If you are a Gophers fan, it should be a little depressing when you can make the argument that Husker basketball is just as appealing as Gopher basketball. It should be a little depressing that the new Gophers athletic director didn’t have a surefire replacement before he decided to dump Tubby.

It should be a little depressing that Miles – in his first year with little talent – was able to beat a once highly-ranked Gophers team late in the season. It prompted Husker fans to storm the court in the last game played at the Devaney Center.

Now Miles prepares for next season in a new arena with a group of redshirts who were able to take it to the starting five during practice this past season. Sound familiar?

It should. When Ben Woodside, Brett Winkelman, Mike Nelson and Lucas Moormann redshirted at NDSU, they won their share of pickup games against the starters. Four years later, they were playing in the NCAA Tournament.

No, there is really no reason Miles would leave Nebraska for Minnesota.


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com