Sadler signs six-year contract with Cornhuskers
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska is pinning its hopes for a move up in Big 12 men's basketball on Texas-El Paso's Doc Sadler.
Sadler was introduced as the Cornhuskers' head coach at a Tuesday news conference, exactly one week after Barry Collier resigned to become athletics director at Butler University.
Sadler, 46, takes over a program that hasn't won a conference championship since sharing the Big Seven title in 1949-50 and is winless in six NCAA Tournament appearances. The Cornhuskers haven't been to the national tournament since 1998.
"The state of Nebraska deserves us to be in the NCAA tournament, and we want it to happen not next year, not two years from now. We want it to happen now," Sadler said.
In six years under Collier, the Huskers were 89-91, never finished higher than sixth in the Big 12 and made two NIT appearances.
Sadler is the sixth new coach in the Big 12 for the upcoming season, a number that includes Jeff Capel at Oklahoma and Sean Sutton at Oklahoma State. New coaches also are in place at Iowa State, Kansas State and Missouri.
Sadler coached UTEP for two seasons and had a 48-18 record with two postseason tournament appearances.
Sadler said he was drawn to Nebraska's reputation for having 233 Academic All-Americans and 22 national championships in all sports.
"I was told that if you could ever get the opportunity to coach at the University of Nebraska, you better do everything you can," Sadler said. "I had a great job. I don't know if people realize that. UTEP is a great basketball job. Great fans, everything. Great tradition. But this is Nebraska, man. This is Nebraska."
UTEP athletic director Bob Stull will conduct a one-man search in the hopes of landing a head coach to replace Doc Sadler by the time school starts Aug. 21.
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Sadler signed a six-year contract that, not including incentives, pays him $700,000 annually, athletics director Steve Pederson said. Sadler's contract at UTEP paid him a base salary of $300,000 a year.
Pederson and associate athletics director Marc Boehm met with Sadler in Los Angeles last week and again in Denver over the weekend before offering the job.
Pederson said Sadler's work ethic as a recruiter and coach stand out.
"He's got a great recruiting reputation, but what everybody said is that he's just a grinder," Pederson said. "You get in there and you work and you work and you work. If everybody else goes to bed at midnight, you go to bed at 2 a.m. You can see that so clearly with him."
Sadler promised an uptempo style that emphasizes creativity rather than set plays.
"We're going to play baseline to baseline," he said. "We're going to get it up and down. I'm going to ask so much of these guys on (defense). But to do that, I'm going to tell them they can go as fast as they want on the other end."
Senior point guard Charles Richardson Jr. said the six returning players who are on campus have embraced Sadler's plan to play at breakneck speed.
"When I heard that, a light went on in my head," Richardson said. "First thing I thought was that I've got to get in shape because I have to be prepared to play 40 minutes and run up and down 94 feet."
Last season UTEP was 21-10 and lost to Michigan in the first round of the NIT.
Sadler's first UTEP team went 27-8, won the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship and reached the NCAA tournament, where it lost to Utah in the first round.
Sadler's immediate task at Nebraska was made more difficult with Monday's announcement that the team's best player, center Aleks Maric, was leaving the program. Maric, who received honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team, averaged 10.9 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore. He said he would transfer or play professionally in Europe.
Maric's departure leaves Nebraska with 10 scholarship players and no true centers.
Sadler said he would try to contact Maric and ask whether he would reconsider.
Sadler pointed out that he recruits wherever he can find the best players.
"I've had players from Brazil, Puerto Rico, New York, California," he said. "Because of Nebraska's name, it's going to be easier to get into people's houses in different areas."
Sadler joined UTEP as an assistant coach in 2003-04, helping Billy Gillespie engineer an NCAA record-tying turnaround by going from six wins the previous year to 24 and UTEP's first NCAA tournament berth since 1992.
Sadler was promoted to head coach when Gillespie left for Texas A&M.
Before going to UTEP, Sadler was a head coach in the junior college ranks at Arkansas-Fort Smith, where he posted a 120-39 record in five seasons. His players had a 95 percent graduation rate.
Sadler previously was an assistant at Arkansas (1982-85), Lamar (1985-86), Houston (1986), Chicago State (1987-88), Arkansas-Fort Smith (1988-91, 1997-98), Texas Tech (1991-94) and Arizona State (1994-97).
In 14 years in Division I coaching, Sadler has coached 19 players who made it to the NBA.
Nebraska also contacted Nevada's Mark Fox, but he announced Saturday that he had withdrawn from consideration. Nevada rewarded Fox with a $100,000 raise, to $500,000 annually.
Media outlets also reported that Nebraska had contact with Karl Hobbs of George Washington, John Pelphrey of South Alabama and Randy Bennett of St. Mary's (Calif.).
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press