It’s been eight years since Tim Miles guided Colorado State’s men’s basketball team to the NCAA Tournament, then left for Nebraska.
Miles is still popular in Fort Collins and talked about often, particularly now, with one of his former assistants, Niko Medved, guiding the Rams (17-8, 8-4 Mountain West) back near the top of the conference standings in just his second season.
CSU and Medved face another former CSU assistant under Miles, Craig Smith and his Utah State team (18-7, 7-5 entering a home game Saturday vs. Boise State) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Moby Arena.
Miles, now a television analyst for Fox Sports and the Big Ten Network, said he will be watching closely while figuring out his next career move. He was fired last spring after seven seasons at Nebraska and declined to discuss specific jobs he’s been linked to since.
The Coloradoan caught up with Miles last week for a Q&A, and here’s what he had to say:
Question: How are you spending the extra time you have this season, your first in many years not coaching a college basketball team?
Answer: Well, it didn’t take long to get binged out on Netflix or Hulu; I did that by the time summer came around. Then, I played so much golf that every joint in my body hurts, so I was done with that.
I’ve been trying to just be around the house more for my son. Spent time with my parents this fall, and then we lost my mom this fall; she died. She had a stroke and just didn’t recover, and within a month, she had another stroke and and then died shortly thereafter.
So, my dad’s been with me the last couple weeks, and we’ve been bouncing around doing stuff. It’s nice having him down at the house, hanging out with us. My son, Gabe, is teaching him how to use an iPhone, so he can send a text on occasion, and for a 93-year-old guy, he does pretty good.
Q. Do you miss coaching?
A: Absolutely. I’d say that broadcasting is fun, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had a chance to see a lot of different practices. I’ve had a lot of time just to think. I always thought, for years, it would be great to have a sabbatical and have time off, and I’ve got that now. And it’s been valuable seeing other programs and how they do well and studying other leagues. I’ve done a ton of Big East games. Being in the Mountain West, you studied the Mountain West. Being in the Big Ten, you studied the Big Ten.
Now, I just kind of get to do it from afar and then I can look into, ‘OK, what works? What doesn’t? What are some trends? What am I missing? What did I miss here, there or somewhere?’ And that’s been valuable, and it’s been good.
But broadcasting is not the same. It’s like going to the Kentucky Derby not owning a horse, not betting on the race. You’re still at the race, it’s a good race; but it could be a lot better.
Q. What are you doing specifically in broadcasting?
A: I do studio work for the Big Ten Network, of which it’s like once a week for eight weeks. And then I’ll be doing the Big Ten tournament from Indianapolis every day on Fox.
The guy that called me is Bill Rafferty. He said, “Timmy, we’ve got to have you at Fox. Come on, do it.” So, I’m going to end up doing (court-side analysis for) probably 15 games, I’d say. Some Big Ten, probably four or five Big Ten, and the rest have been Big East games.
Q. Do you watch the game differently as a broadcaster than you did as a coach?
A: Well, I started to do it like a scout, just like I would as a coach. Seth Davis of CBS gave me the best advice: “Say half of what you think you should say.” So, all this great knowledge I thought I could provide, you know what I mean, all of a sudden, is not relevant, because people see it for themselves and can make their own digestions, so to speak. And my job’s just to try and add value.
So, really you watch the game, so you know what’s going on and what tendencies are the last few games or whatever it might be or throughout the season. But really you just call the game as you see it, and if there’s something unique that a guy like me can add value to from experiences, we try and do it.
Q. Do you still follow Colorado State’s basketball program?
A: Absolutely. When I could, I’ve watched Niko the last two seasons. And Craig (Smith at Utah State), too. And Dutch, Brian Dutcher (San Diego State’s coach) is a good friend of mine, and they have such a special squad at San Diego State that it’s been fun to watch those guys. Now, with Steve Alford back in the league (at Nevada), that’s kind of interesting — he and Noodles (Craig Neal, former New Mexico coach now an assistant at Nevada) — so there’s plenty to watch in the Mountain West.
Q. Do you see any similarities to CSU’s program when Niko Medved took it over and when you first came in?
A: It’s hard to say, not being on the inside. But I know Niko had some real challenges in front of him, and I think he’s done a phenomenal job. You look at the short time they’ve had, they’re already up in the top third of the standings.
That’s a strong staff he’s got, with JR (Blount), of course, who I don’t know., but Dave Thorson, who I do know, and Ali Farokhmanesh, who worked for me. Those guys know what they’re doing. And, of course, working with Niko and the job he did for us at Colorado State, you knew he was going to be highly successful.
I came out, watched a practice this fall one day and had fun doing that. It’s been good getting back and seeing the new stadium on campus, which was spectacular, and all that fun stuff. It was enjoyable, and I really had a good time watching just the success they’ve had.
Q. Do you take pride in the success of your former assistant coaches, like Niko Medved, Craig Smith, DeMarlo Slocum (UNLV assistant), Dorian Green (Northern Colorado assistant), Ali Farokhmanesh, Saul Phillips (former North Dakota State coach)?
A: I end up cheering for them because I like them so much. I think really what you look at is look at the guys you’ve worked with and any time you see them having success, you know, “Hey, I was smart to hire the right guy” or whatever. Or, “Hey we worked well together.” Those guys provide as much value, I think, as assistant coaches that you do provide value to them to becoming head coaches.
There’s certainly some pride. But more than anything, you’re just happy to see a friend doing well.
Q. Looking back on your time at CSU, what do you miss most about coaching the Rams and about Fort Collins, in general?
A: I miss everything. It’s a beautiful town to live in, and the friendships and the fan base that was so dedicated when things were rotten and were patient until we at least got it going in the right direction — those are just special, special times. And the players; what a special group of guys that whole group is. In fact, I ended up hiring Dorian and Wes, and I talked to Dwight Smith about positions.
It was just one of those things that, as you looked at it, it was quite a time. Those last two years were really good, even though our 2011 season didn’t end the way we wanted it to in the NIT. The 2012 season, I think, makes that all even more special and then, of course, them going and winning in the NCAA the year after was fun to watch, too.
Q. Without going into specific jobs that might be available, per your request, can you talk in general terms about what you will look for in your next coaching job?
A: One of the reasons I think that we had some circumstances at Nebraska — they had a chance to hire Fred Hoiberg, which he’s a phenomenal coach — I was low-hanging fruit. Even though we’d won 41 games or whatever over two seasons, if you’re toward the end of your contract and a Power 5 has a chance to upgrade, then that’s what they’re going to try to do.
It’s a big-boy business, and I knew that. If we didn’t do something short of spectacular, it was going to be hard for me to survive there, especially going through three athletic directors. Tom Osborne hired me.
So, that’s the biggest thing I look for is, “All right, is the athletic director going to be there? Is this a partnership? Is this a place we want to live? Is this a place where we feel like we can be successful? And whatever level that is, whether it be Power 5, Power 6, Power 9, whatever the levels are really don’t matter because we’ve been at every level already — Division I independent to CSU, high major and small college.
So, you’re at a point in your life when you’re in your early 50s, and you’re saying, “Hey, I just want to be at a place where I know we can be successful and the relationships are strong and honest.” And when those things happen, good things happen.
Q. What did you learn at Nebraska that will make you a better coach in the future?
A: That’s a good question. You like to think you’re learning all the time and that seven years in the Big Ten and having to try to match wits with John Beilein, Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, Tom Crean, Mark Turgeon, Chris Holtmann, Thad Matta, Matt Painter — and it’s like that every time you turn your head: Brad Underwood, John Groce, Richard Pitino. All of these guys are highly skilled guys who know exactly what they’re doing. Iron sharpens iron, so hopefully having the chance to go against those guys just makes you better.
Q. What’s it like still living in Lincoln after being fired as Nebraska’s coach?
A: The people around us have made it more comfortable. I’ve run into Fred (Hoiberg) a couple times, and he and I were always friendly; we don’t know each other well. But there were times I asked him when he was with the Bulls, “Hey, can I get this part of your secondary offense,” and he had his film guy the next day send me basically their playbook. And it was funny this year, because some of the guys that were still around were like, “I think we watched this tape, Coach, last year. This is what we were trying to run.”
Fred’s a good guy, and he’s handled it really well, and he’ll get that thing going. They’re just in a tough way this year, just starting over and all that sort of stuff. It’s not ideal, by any state of the imagination. But I talked to my son, he’s a freshman in high school, and he wanted to stay in high school with his friends. He said, “Dad, just do TV for a while.” So, I’m doing TV for a while. But we’re having a whole new discussion here toward the end of the month, so we’ll see how it goes.
Kelly Lyell covers CSU and other local sports and sports-related news for the Coloradoan. Contact him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @KellyLyell and find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. Help support Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.