SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Tip Miles loves telling this story.
He sits back in his chair courtside at the Sanford Pentagon and taps his wife, Alyce, to pay attention.
“When he was 5, do you remember? With the hoop?” He tells her.
She smiles and nods. And Tip — a lover of stories and former owner of two weekly newspapers — starts in on the tale.
When Tim was a boy he had a small basketball hoop.
“You know, one of those you hang up on the back of a door,” Tip says over the thumping rap music during warmups an hour before Nebraska’s game against Oklahoma State on Sunday.
Anyway, he says, whenever one of Tim’s two older sisters had a date come to the house, there was a catch. They couldn’t leave without shooting hoops with Tim on that small hoop. If they beat him in a game of P-I-G, they could go on the date with his sister. If they lost, they left anyway, but not with little brother’s blessing.
When Tip finishes, he laughs and he wipes his eyes. A life without basketball?
“He never had a chance,” Tip said.
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On Sunday, for the first time in a while, Tip and Alyce got to see their son coach a game. Tim brings up his parents often in press conferences. They’re 92 and 87. He’s lucky, Tim says.
That’s why on Sunday, after Nebraska’s win over Oklahoma State, instead of heading back to Lincoln, he stayed to get lunch with his parents Monday.
Watching Tim coach was a treat for Tip and Alyce, they said, and it was Alyce’s first game in years.
Seeing their son didn’t used to be that hard.
In 1995, when Miles got his first head coaching job at Mayville State, Tip and Alyce often made the three-hour drive north from Doland, South Dakota, to Mayville, North Dakota. After two seasons, Miles moved on to Southwest Minnesota State. And instead of driving to games, Tip and Alyce rented an apartment in Marshall, Minnesota, right across the street from the arena, so they could stay there in the winter and go to home games. They did the same thing with an apartment in Fargo, North Dakota, five years later, when Tim took the North Dakota State job in 2001. The move to Colorado State in 2007 was too much, as is the trip to Lincoln.
So seeing Tim isn’t as easy as it was. Especially now that he’s far away, and as Tip’s health has declined in the past few years. Heart issues, he says, tapping his chest. So it’s hard to travel often.
“But summer is a nice time,” he says with a smile.
About 12 years ago, Tip and Alyce moved from Doland, where they lived for four decades and raised a family, to Sioux Falls. That was hard. Tip really loved that old house in Doland, with its maple staircase and the marks on the door from that basketball hoop in the hallway.
“They’re probably still there if you went back and looked at that house,” he said.
But they like Sioux Falls. And loved it even more on Sunday when “Timmy” brought his team to town.
Just before tipoff, they left their seats courtside and moved behind Nebraska’s bench. Tip, a former player, has always been a screamer. He’s been thrown out of games that Tim’s coached more than once.
When the referees missed a pretty obvious goaltending, Tip was shown on BTN with his hand up, scowl on, scolding the refs. Alyce gently tugged at Tip’s hand to sit down. Eventually he did, still glaring at the refs.
They’re full-on Husker fans now, Tip said. They don’t miss football games. They have BTN now for basketball games. They try to make it to a Husker game at least once a year. Most of the time that happens. Not as much recently. They traveled to San Antonio a few years ago for the NCAA tournament. That sure was a thrill, Tip said. And they’ll be in Lincoln in January for a game. They’ll stay at Tim’s house and make a weekend out of it.
Tip doesn’t like to use the word proud. It’s sinful, he said. But happy? That only scratches the surface of how he feels about watching his son’s team play.
“Everywhere he’s gone he’s shown he’s an exceptional coach,” Tip said. “This year, I want them to prove it.”
Nebraska ran away with its ninth win of the year on Sunday in front of Tip and Alyce and nearly the whole town of Doland. As the team walked off the court, they waved to the crowd. Tip and Alyce stood and waved back.
A few minutes later, after Tim finished an interview on BTN, he walked off the court with two fingers in the air. Tip and Alyce waved back.
Tim didn’t see them as he headed to the locker room. But it didn’t matter much. Tip’s smile was the size of South Dakota. And even though it’s sometimes hard to travel, if Nebraska makes the NCAA tournament this year, you better believe he and Alyce will be there to watch their son’s pursuit of history.
“I wouldn’t bet against it,” Tip said.