After a patience-testing 7-25 season, that included zero conference wins in his first year, men’s basketball coach Tim Miles was rewarded with a contract extension, adding a sixth year to the five-year deal Miles signed upon his arrival two years ago.
Considering the Athletics Department is still paying off contracts of three former coaches, the extension is a clear sign of the confidence athletics director Paul Kowalczyk has in Miles – confidence that fans should have too.
While the extension wouldn’t take effect until the 2012-2013 season, it should help Miles right away, as this year’s high school recruits now know that Miles is under contract through what would be their entire college career.
“It’s easy to reward someone after a successful season,” Kowalczyk said in a statement after the extension in September. “But last year, Tim showed amazing strength and character in the face of really difficult circumstances.”
Difficult just begins to describe the circumstances Miles experienced during his first year.
Just to have enough players to fill the roster, he had to hold open tryouts before the season. And once he finally did have enough players, Miles had to battle an injury to Stuart Creason, the team’s only player with any significant D-I experience.
But this season, which begins Friday with a home game against Montana, the circumstances appear much more favorable.
Creason may be gone, but so is the open tryout.
Instead, this year Miles was in Vancouver spending some quality time with this team, finding out how last year’s players will fit in with the many new faces brought in this year.
So now that the transition is over and Miles is coaching the players of his choosing, just how much can this team improve from last year’s forgettable performance?
According to the media who covers the Mountain West, not that much. The Rams were picked to finish eighth, just three points ahead of last-place TCU, in the media’s preseason poll. But don’t worry. I didn’t vote in that poll.
Maybe I’ve been drinking a little too much of Pauly K’s Kool Aid, but I like the Rams chances to be a real surprise this year in the MWC.
In addition to the return of nearly every major contributor from last year, a slew of transfers will give CSU the depth and size it was lacking last season.
Among the many transfers is Andy Ogide, a 6-foot-9 forward who sat out last year after transferring from Ole Miss. At 245 pounds, Ogide provides a much-needed big body inside and a will help relieve some of the scoring pressure off Marcus Walker, who at times last year was the only Ram who could get his own shot.
And because he spent last year practicing with team and getting to know Miles’ system, Ogide will be ready to contribute right away.
So if I were to vote, the Rams would be sixth. That may not be anything to call home about, but for a team that didn’t win a single conference game a year ago, it would be a significant improvement.
Because like Pauly K showed with the extension, it’s all about the future for this program.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.