Click here for a photo showcase of Doc Sadler and his time at Nebraska.
INDIANAPOLIS — Pass the BBQ sauce.
Before eating your own words, it's always good to add some flavor. That's the voice of experience. So pass the bread and some sauce and a few of those columns on Doc Sadler from 2006 to '11.
I've been one of Doc's ardent supporters. There's no need to get into details. My Creighton Bluejay friends can recite the lines word for word.
Let's be honest about this: Much of my analysis of Doc was fueled by part emotion, part hope and a dash of logic. But just a dash.
Sadler is a good man. He's a writer's coach, in a very friendly old-school way. Have a seat in his office. Talk hoops. Talk football. Talk family. Talk life.
He's the same Doc, whether it's after one of his few highlights or one of the many kicks in the teeth delivered by Kansas, Kansas State or Ohio State.
Let's be honest about something else: I want Nebraska basketball to be relevant, to be a contender, to play in big games. Same as I want Creighton to be relevant. When you get a good man to follow, like Doc or Greg McDermott, even better.
The hope came in the form of some of Doc's early work. He could occasionally out-coach the other guy on the bench, who might be Bob Knight or Bob Huggins or Rick Barnes. Doc owned Mike Anderson.
If Doc could ever get the players, Nebraska might have something here. Good coach, good guy, winner.
The thing is, I wasn't alone. It's not going to work out for Doc. And there are Husker fans who are sad about it. Mostly because they like Doc. When Tom Osborne speaks of Doc, the first thing he says is, "Doc is a really good guy."
But the other thing is, good guys don't last long in major college hoops. Not unless they can recruit good players.
And that's what will get Doc in the end. He never had a plan to get players. If he did, it was flawed.
Sure, he showed up in August of 2006, thanks to his predecessor, Barry Collier. The first year recruiting was a wash. But if you are a mid-major coach taking a step up to the big leagues, you have to have a plan: Here's where I will recruit and here's who will be on my staff when I get that job.
Doc and his staffs have proven to be average recruiters at best. He jumbled his assistants at times, but never got that ace recruiter you desperately need.
On his first day on the job, Doc told the Nebraska media that his teams would run so much it would be like watching a tennis match. Maybe he really believed that at the time. And maybe after seeing the Big 12 race horses up close and personal, he realized that he couldn't recruit those kind of thoroughbreds. And then Doc ball became methodical ball.
A couple of years into his tenure, Doc made the statement that he was going to get his guards in the U.S.A., but in order to get big men to come to Nebraska, he would have to go overseas.
Somewhere, Dave Hoppen, Rich King, Derrick Chandler and Venson Hamilton, to name a few, shook their heads.
Look, there aren't many big men out there who can play at a high level. They usually end up at Kansas or UConn. And yes, it's hard to recruit to Nebraska, without the facilities and all of the trimmings.
But it's even harder when your plan is flawed. And relying on international players, who must be developed and coddled and must learn the American college game — and who sometimes leave to go home — can be a house of straw.
The perception is that Doc couldn't recruit the AAU route because his boss has a disdain for the AAU process. But Doc says that's not true. He says he recruits AAU. Clearly, he's not hitting the same AAU areas as other coaches, or isn't getting in as deep as others.
Doc has had his share of bad luck, you bet. Would Roburt Sallie have been a nice way to start the Doc era? Absolutely. But that's six years ago. Doc had six years to recover from losing Sallie to Big Red tape.
People said Christopher Niemann was going to be better than Aleks Maric. Niemann has had his share of injuries. Jorge Brian Diaz's Nebraska career has been injury-riddled. Andre Almeida missed this year. One thing after another.
None of those players being out should cause your program to finish last in the conference and have a hard time scoring 40 points in some games.
Bottom line, Doc hasn't had a lot of luck, but you make your own luck, too, and Doc hasn't done that nearly enough.
What will define Doc's time at Nebraska? He owned Missouri. Went 3-3 against Creighton. Went 1-3 in three NITs. Beat Texas twice, including last year when the 'Horns were ranked No. 3. That was Doc's crossroads right there. NU was 18-8 and 6-6 in the Big 12 after that one. The NCAA bubble called.
But Doc didn't answer. The Huskers finished the regular season at 1-3, came out flat in a Big 12 tourney loss to an average Oklahoma State team and got walloped in the NIT by Wichita State.
And that was as big an indictment as anything of Doc. When he had it going, his team didn't show up, didn't execute, couldn't come through. He couldn't coach them up when he had to have it.
Doc thought that this year would be his best team. He points to the loss of Diaz, Almeida and newcomer Dylan Talley to injury. But Diaz and Talley played when NU lost to Oregon and Wake Forest at home.
The other day, I stopped by practice to ask Doc if he had any regrets. Would he do anything differently?
"No, I don't think so," Sadler said. "I think the plan we had in place, considering when I took the job, the kids who left the program, the scholarships I had available. Nope.
"To be honest with you, this was the year I thought it could happen. Let's be real, you lose two guys like we did, and this is not making excuses, you think that Andre and Brian aren't worth 10 points combined? Put 10 points a game into this season and see what kind of a season you'd have.
"The last thing you want in my position is to say, 'what if,' and that's what I'm doing. What if this would have happened?"
The words fell to the floor in the new practice gym. Ten more points don't overcome the blowout defeats. But it doesn't matter now. The brutal season is almost over. Doc is still friendly, still a good guy to the media and the fans. Six years later, that hasn't changed. That's how I'll remember him.
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