Dienhart: Nebraska, Sadler part ways

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne fired Doc Sadler today, a move that surprised no one. Sadler went 12-17 overall and 4-14 in the Big Ten, culminating with a loss to Purdue in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Nebraska moved into a state-of-the-art, $18 million practice facility last fall. And the program will move into a $344 million arena that is expected to open for the 2013-14 season, as the school has experienced a rebirth of its basketball facilities. (See more video in this post.)

Now, a new coach will be part of the makeover in Lincoln for a program that has made only six NCAA tourney appearances (1986; 1991; 1992; 1993; 1994; 1998), failing to ever win a game. Alas, the Cornhuskers never have won a game in the Big Dance. Read more on Sadler’s dismissal from the AP.

Who might Nebraska look at? Some feel the school could target a minority, as the Nebraska has not had a minority head coach in any sport in the school’s history. And expect the next coach to be someone who has head coaching experience. Who are some viable candidates who fit one or both of those criteria?

The list could look similar to the one Illinois figures to work off of as it looks to replace Bruce Weber, with hot names being Memphis’ Josh Pastner, Kansas State’s Frank Martin, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, South Florida’s Stan Heath, Alabama’s Anthony Grant, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker and Marquette’s Buzz Williams.

VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens—perhaps the hottest young coaches in the nation—would have to be on a short list, but would they be interested?

Bottom line: This search could be wide and far-ranging.

In six seasons in Lincoln, Sadler went 89-71 overall with four winning seasons. Sadler’s best season was his second in 2007-08, when he guided the Cornhuskers to a 20-12 mark overall and 7-9 record in the Big 12, culminating with a second-round loss in the NIT. He also led Nebraska to NIT appearances in 2009 and 2011 but never reached the NCAA tourney. Sadler went 30-50 in Big 12 action.

Sadler arrived in Lincoln after a two-year run as coach of UTEP, where he went 47-16 overall with a 25-7 league mark with a trip to the NCAA tourney in 2005 and NIT in 2006.

Danny Nee is the all-time winningest coach, posting a 254-190 record en route to leading the program to five of its six NCAA appearances from 1987-2000. Nee led the Huskers to six NIT appearances and the NIT crown in 1996. Barry Collier followed Nee from 2000-06 but struggled.

And Sadler didn’t do much better, which is why the Huskers are making a change. Again.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find Dienhart’s work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his overall RSS feed.

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