Tim Miles calls Huskers ‘soft,’ says he will get team ‘pointed in the right direction’

Tim Miles calls Huskers ‘soft,’ says he will get team ‘pointed in the right direction’
Nebraska coach Tim Miles called his team "soft" on his radio show Wednesday night, and assured fans they will turn it around after the loss to Rutgers. RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — Due to a snowstorm and being forced to bus an hour to the Philadelphia airport, Nebraska didn’t land in Lincoln until 5:18 Tuesday morning after its 76-69 loss to Rutgers. So coach Tim Miles had some time to mull over the Huskers’ loss.

“I didn’t have them ready to play,” Miles said on his weekly radio show Wednesday.

Miles said he wasn’t sure if it was a residual effect from the 70-64 loss to No. 6 Michigan State last week. Practices seemed good heading into Rutgers.

But there was something wrong.

“Once (Rutgers) quit making ball-handling mistakes, we quit scoring, because we weren’t ready to play,” Miles said. “I just don’t think, as I looked at it, I had them in the right mind frame.”

The loss has triggered backlash against Miles and the team on social media the past 24 hours. Nebraska has lost four of its past six games and sits at 13-6 on the year, 3-5 in conference play.

On Wednesday, Miles fielded questions from callers giving shooting form advice and asking if he had “alternative offensive sets.” One said Miles was a good recruiter, but asked if he had thought about delegating some of his coaching duties to assistants.

Before taking questions, Miles said he wanted to “confront the issues” and talk to the fans who were frustrated. He also said he’s in the process of trying to figure out how to motivate his team, which he called “soft” and “casual” Wednesday.

“I’m trying to get to a point in my life where I don’t threaten them every game, ‘This team is the best, you’re gonna lose,’ and create all this worry, fear and doubt,” Miles said. “I try not to do that. But after not doing that and losing you feel like, ‘What in the world?’

“My job is to prepare them, but I gotta get a standard of play out of these guys, too, and I didn’t do a good enough job.”

Over the course of the hour, Miles said he thinks he needs to play freshman Brady Heiman more and get more production from the bench. Nebraska starters have played more than 75 percent of the minutes the past six conference games. James Palmer has played 209 of the last 220 minutes. Nebraska is 347th out of 353 Division I teams in bench minutes per game.

“When I took this job, my goal was to make history at Nebraska and do things that were unprecedented,” Miles said. “We’ve had some good things happen, there’s no doubt. We’ve been to the NCAA (tournament), we’ve been to the NIT, we’ve had great fan support and great crowds. And we’ve been able to do some good things, but we haven’t made history, and that’s what we want this team to do.”

Which is why when they lose, Miles said, it is frustrating. “When you see such a talented team struggle and not play well or not play their best, it frustrates everybody, including me and including our fans.”

But, Miles said, he wanted to remind fans that he hopes Nebraska is playing its best basketball at the end of the season, not in January. The last time Nebraska went to the NCAA tournament, the Huskers were 9-9 at this point in the season and finished the regular season 10-2.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not trying as hard now, but I’m gonna get us pointed in the right direction and our guys will get us pointed in the right direction,” Miles said. “I’ll be real surprised if we’re not playing great at the end.”