It didn’t take long for CSU’s new men’s basketball coach Tim Miles to prove he was passionate about the game of basketball.
Minutes after being introduced by CSU Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk, Miles broke down in tears while describing his final meeting with his former North Dakota State team Wednesday night Fargo.
“In two years I told them I want to see a CSU-North Dakota State match-up in the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” Miles said. “And we’ll be the 5-seed.”
Miles’ hiring comes ten days after Dale Layer was fired after seven years as the Rams head coach and with a year remaining on his contract.
President Larry Penley began the news conference and was clear to state that Miles was hired to take CSU basketball to a new level.
“We expect him to win, not only in our conference, but in the NCAA Tournament where we are not today,” Penley said.
Miles introduced himself to the Rams in a team meeting preceding the press conference in which he informed the players that his first workout will be held today. Seven-foot junior Stuart Creason initially heard the news Wednesday night through his father and stories on the internet.
“He seems like a very good guy,” Creason said. “He’s pulled out some really big upsets at a very small school that nobody expected. He seems like he’s going to be a really good fit.”
Over the past six years, Miles coached the Bison to a 99-72 record, including two road wins against teams ranked in the top 15 at the time-at No. 8 Marquette this past year and at No. 15 Wisconsin the year before that.
Miles was named the Division I Independent Coach of the Year by CBS Sportsline after guiding his team to a 16-12 record for the 2005-06 season.
After an initial two-and-a-half hour phone interview with Miles ten days ago, Kowalcyzk was convinced he had the right man for the job.
“I had an initial reaction similar to when I was at Southern Illinois and I hired Matt Painter and Chris Lowery, but Tim has been a head coach before, while those guys were top assistants,” Kowalczyk said. “He has that same passion, and I guess I’d call it the same ‘x-factor,”
Both Lowery, at Southern Illinois, and Painter, now at Purdue, guided their teams to the NCAA Tournament this season.
Miles’ contract is for five years and could be worth twice as much as Layer’s with included incentives, according to Kowalczyk.
Creason said he was unsure how the hiring of the new coach will affect if any players decide not to return next year.
Miles said his decision was based on the university as a whole and not the talent of the team, including the possibility of junior Jason Smith foregoing his final year at CSU to enter the NBA Draft.
“I will meet with Jason tomorrow to help him make a great decision, but, I don’t feel our team ends or begins with just one player,” Miles said.
Miles said that he will implement a motion offense and an “in-your-face” man-to-man defense, but knows progress must be made for a team that has never finished higher than a tie for fifth place in the Mountain West Conference.
“We got work to do, whether that be in the weight room or the classroom.”
Basketball beat writers Sean Star and Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.