Early in his tenure there was little to suggest that Tim Miles would have his team on the precipice of greatness five years later.
Miles was hired to replace Dale Layer as the CSU basketball coach on March 22, 2007. Shortly thereafter, Jason Smith said he was leaving the program early to go to the NBA. Not long after, one of his players threatened a teammate by pointing a gun at his head and firing a warning shot into a couch, leading to his arrest.
Miles ended up holding open tryouts just to fill out his roster after so many player departures. Not exactly a recipe for success.
But five years later, CSU was in the NCAA Tournament and looked loaded for a run to the top of the Mountain West next season.
Then came the sucker punch to the gut of Ram Nation on Friday night. Tim Miles was leaving.
Fans didnâ€™t want to believe what they were seeing as news broke of his imminent departure. He had to stay at least one more year, right? But the allure of working in the Big Ten and for Tom Osborne at Nebraska was too much. Miles saw the opportunity and took it, but not without a tearful goodbye to his current players.
â€œAs a basketball coach youâ€™re supposed to be a leader, and last night I didn’t feel like much of a leader,â€ Miles said at his introductory press conference at Nebraska, choking up as he thought about talking to his former team. â€œYou’re telling those guys you’re going to leave them, and it’s hard to do.â€
His players were hurt by his departure, but they know it is part of the business of college athletics.
â€œItâ€™s been a tough couple of days,â€ guard Dorian Green said on Saturday. â€œWe understand the decision and why he chose to do what he did. We need to stick together. We want to make sure that we work to make sure that we donâ€™t take any steps back, that we continue to improve.â€
While it stings fans to see Miles go with the program on such a high, early on it looked like he would struggle to ever get his team to this point. The Rams won only seven games in Milesâ€™ first season, none in conference play, and the team was a mere afterthought on the CSU campus.
Things slowly got better with win totals improving every season. Finally there was evidence of success in 2009-10 and 2010-11 when CSU made back-to-back postseason appearances (College Basketball Invitational and National Invitational Tournament) and even flirted with a NCAA Tournament berth.
Finally the breakthrough came in 2011-12 when a junior-filled squad beat three top-25 teams for the first time in school history and earned the school’s first at-large bid to the Tournament since 1990.
While it is hard for fans to see Miles go, there is little doubt that he has made CSU relevant on the basketball scene.
â€œI promise you this, Colorado State is much better equipped than in 2007 on March 22 when I took over that job to be successful,â€ Miles said. â€œAnd that team is going to be terrific next year, and that program is on the right foot.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Miles by season
2007-08: 7-25 (0-16 MW)
2008-09: 9-22 (4-12 MW)
2009-10: 16-16 (7-9 MW)
2010-11: 19-13 (9-7 MW)
2011-12: 20-12 (8-6 MW)