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Schnepf: Tim Miles relishes family time after dad's health scare


Tim Miles is no stranger to the elevated basketball court at Williams Arena - where his rebuilding Nebraska Cornhuskers will play the No. 23-ranked Minnesota Gophers tonight.

"Every time I'm there it's like I don't want to fall off that floor and embarrass myself or my family," Miles said.

If there was ever any awkwardness the four other times Miles coached at Williams - three times while at North Dakota State and once at Colorado State - it probably came from the first row behind his bench. That's where you could usually find his dad Tip shouting his suggestions towards the officials.

"Let's just say he's been respectfully dismissed from a few venues," Miles said.

Tip Miles won't be at Williams tonight. He's recovering from open-heart surgery.

The health scare wasn't exactly what Miles expected during his first season as Nebraska's head coach. Then again, he was thankful his dad left his home in Sioux Falls, S.D., to get medical help in a Lincoln hospital - a few minutes from Miles' home.

"As coaches, we all have personal lives," Miles said. "I think sometimes people forget about that. To me, it was great to be with my family for a week or so, even though it was midseason."

And it was great being able to talk to his dad before leaving Monday for Minneapolis. Tip was in good enough shape to start grilling his son about the upcoming schedule - which, after tonight, includes No. 11 Ohio State, No. 3 Indiana and No. 13 Michigan State.

Welcome to the Big Ten. Welcome to the big time.

"It's a very tough league," said Miles, whose 11-10 team has won two of its last three games to improve to 2-6 in the Big Ten. "Win two out of three in the Big Ten, you don't get to say that too often."

And it's not often a kid from tiny Doland, S.D., ends up coaching in the Big Ten. But that's what Miles has done - reviving programs at Mayville State, Southwest Minnesota State, NDSU and Colorado State.

Now, with a $1.4 million contract, Miles is trying to do the same at Nebraska - where the men's basketball program has made only six NCAA tournament appearances, the last coming in 1998.

"Every time you start over, it's about the same," said Miles, who is working with seven scholarship players after sitting on three scholarships and redshirting three other players. "We are trying to build trust with the players and gain a confidence within the structure we are trying to establish. Those are always tough times."

Miles compares it to Southwest Minnesota, where he had no sophomore or junior scholarship players. But he alluded that the program isn't in as bad of shape as when he took over at Colorado State.

"I think we will rebound a lot quicker here," said Miles, who has plenty of backing from the Husker athletic department.

For starters, his team workouts on in a new practice facility - so state-of-the-art that the bathroom stalls have iPod docking stations. Next season, the Huskers will play in the new 15,000-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Longtime Michigan State coach Tom Izzo thinks Miles has Nebraska on the right track. "I think Tim has done an incredible job there already," Izzo was quoted as saying after his team's 66-56 win over Nebraska earlier this season.

Miles appreciates the comments. But he's more thankful that his biggest critic - his dad - is still around to give him advice.

"He's always asking me 'Why aren't you doing this?' or 'Why aren't you doing that?' " Miles said. "My dad is one of those guys who is such a great role model.

"He taught me how to be diplomatic yet stand on my own two feet and fight for my beliefs. He's always been my biggest advocate and ally. He allowed me to chase my dream."

Which, for the time being, is a win over the Gophers ... or at least not falling off the elevated floor.