|Page (1) of 1 - 03/09/12||email article||print page|
Nebraska fires Doc Sadler after last-place finish in Big Ten, some of program's worst losses
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) ' Nebraska fired coach Doc Sadler on Friday after the team he expected to be his best in his six years at the school posted the program's lowest win total since 2003.
Athletic director Tom Osborne announced the move at a news conference Sadler did not attend.
"I've decided to make a change in the basketball program," he said. "I've had to do some difficult things over my lifetime. This may be as difficult as any of them. Doc is a good man, an honorable man and I consider him a good friend. I thought it was wise at this point to make a change."
Sadler did not immediately return a message left seeking comment.
The Cornhuskers finished 12-18 after losing 79-61 to Purdue in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday. They tied with Penn State for last place in the conference with a 4-14 record in their first season in the Big Ten. In the Huskers' final five years in the Big 12, Sadler's teams never finished higher than seventh.
Sadler was 101-89 overall with three NIT appearances at Nebraska but just 34-64 in conference games. Osborne said he and the coaching staff thought the Huskers would be a better team this year.
"I gambled and Doc gambled that this would be a good year," Osborne said. "Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it didn't work out that way."
Sadler last spring signed a contract extension through 2015-16 and his salary was $900,000 a year. His contract calls for him to be paid as much as $66,667 a month until he finds another job ' up to a total of $3.4 million.
"I've got four years left on my contract. I expect to finish them," Sadler told reporters Thursday.
Sadler said he had passed on three chances to pursue other jobs in recent years, most recently Texas Tech, because Osborne had asked him to stay. Sadler said the contract extension last spring was a symbol of Osborne's commitment to him.
"I think all of us would assume by the actions of Coach that he thought I was the right guy," Sadler said in Indianapolis at the Big Ten tournament.
The program appeared to be on the upswing on and off the court last fall.
With the hope of wooing recruits, Nebraska opened a plush, $10 million practice facility in October. A few blocks away in downtown Lincoln, a 16,000-seat arena scheduled to open in October 2013 is under construction.
Sadler said he had his best personnel since he arrived. Four starters returned from a 19-13 team, and a couple high-profile newcomers were set to play.
But the Huskers lost any hope of sustaining an inside presence against rugged Big Ten opponents when centers Jorge Brian Diaz and Andre Almeida went out with health problems.
An upset of then-No. 11 Indiana in mid-January was overshadowed by some of the most humiliating losses in program history. Among them: 31- and 34-pointers to Ohio State, a 28-pointer at Michigan State and a 24-pointer at home against Wisconsin.
The 79-45 loss to Ohio State in January was the most lopsided at home on record. In a 62-34 loss at Michigan State, the Huskers scored their fewest points in a game since 1948.
The Huskers averaged a league-low 57 points in Big Ten games and the defense, the strength of Sadler's previous teams, unraveled. Nebraska was last in field-goal defense and eighth in 3-point defense.
Sadler, 51, was thought to be a rising star when former Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson hired him away from UTEP in August 2006, after Barry Collier resigned to become athletic director at Butler. Collier had been under fire after going 89-91 and never having a winning Big 12 record in six seasons at Nebraska.
Sadler tied a school record with 37 wins in his first two seasons. But with lackluster facilities and a largely apathetic fan base, Sadler proved to be no different than his predecessors who failed to sustain success.
The Huskers haven't won a conference championship since sharing the Big Seven title in 1949-50, and they're winless in six NCAA tournament appearances. They haven't been to the national tournament since 1998 and haven't produced an NBA draft pick since 1999.
Nebraska showed promise last season, stringing together 11 straight wins for the longest streak since 1991. A win over third-ranked Texas improved the Huskers to 18-8 and 6-6 in the Big 12 and kept them in the NCAA tournament conversation into late February.
But their hopes were dashed after they lost four of their next five games, and then they were blown out at Wichita State in their NIT opener.