Lincoln — Good for Tim.
No matter what your feelings are about coach Tim Miles or this lost Husker season, you had to feel good about what happened at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday.
Nebraska was down 16 to Iowa early in the second half. Nebraska was down eight with 44 seconds left. Nebraska was down to Johnny Trueblood.
The Huskers entered the game 15-15 and locked into the 13th seed of the Big Ten tournament, and by the second half, they were locked into playing Rutgers on Wednesday night in the first round.
And they go and take the second-most satisfying win in a season low on satisfaction and wins.
They took Iowa into overtime and beat the Hawks, with everyone but Kent Pavelka making important plays down the stretch.
“That’s a special one,” Miles said.
His face said as much. The coach was drained of emotion. Afterward, he was hugging everybody he could find. And we all know why.
Miles was saying goodbye Sunday. That’s not a scoop. That’s the speculation. It’s what we all suspect will happen later this week.
He got a nice ovation on the way out. That was good. Miles earned that. In seven seasons, he’s worked overtime to sell Nebraska basketball, to reach out to fans, to take time to sign his name or pose for selfies or photos with an old-fashioned camera.
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There has been a lot of parallels between Miles and former NU coach Danny Nee, and I saw another one Sunday.
I remember Nee’s last home game Feb. 26, 2000. NU beat Colorado, and the speculation about Nee’s job was rampant. The coach knew. Of course he knew. They all know.
Anyway, Nee left the Devaney court with an entourage of photographers shooting the moment, flashes going off as Nee raised his hand and waved to a crowd that was standing and cheering.
Some of those fans were ready for a change, but it was an appropriate gesture of thanks.
Miles was the last Husker to leave the court. The assistants had walked through the tunnel, one by one, their faces devoid of emotion — except stress. The players came through, one by one, wearing big smiles as they high-fived fans in the tunnel.
Finally, here came the coach, in his dark suit, blue shirt, red tie. As he entered the tunnel, a group of fans stood and cheered for Miles. He held his glasses in one hand and acknowledged the crowd with the other. His eyes were red. He slapped every high-five he could.
Then as he walked into the locker room, he embraced assistant Michael Lewis in a long hug. I take note of this because I’ve always been fascinated with the emotional side of sports. These guys are larger than life in a small city/campus town. Sometimes they have to keep from bleeding in front of the cameras, which is hard today because there are so many cameras.
I guess I was curious how Miles would react after this one, and he was pure Miles to the end. Real.
His press conference was punctuated with the words “awesome” and “cool.” The fans were “really cool.” It was “awesome” to walk out of Pinnacle Bank Arena with a win. To see all eight Huskers make significant plays was “pretty cool stuff.”
Miles was good for Nebraska basketball in a lot of ways. He is the only coach that Pinnacle Bank Arena has ever known, and he was the perfect guy to open it. With so much excitement about the building, Miles was the perfect guy to tap into that passion, shake hands, make small talk with a dad and his kid, make everyone feel like they were part of the program.
There were flaws. But it was good to see Miles get rewarded with one more good moment, the coach and the Pinnacle Bank crowd celebrating one more time.
If this was goodbye, it was a good one. And I’ll always remember Miles for one last moment.
After he left his press conference, he was stopped in the tunnel area, outside by the Husker locker room. There was a request for a photo with the coach. He put his arm around the fan as another took the photo.
“Thank you, coach!” said the fan.
“Thank you,” Miles said, as he walked away.