SAN JOSE — Tim Miles was standing at the podium in a major metropolitan area in California on Wednesday, April 7, but the former North Dakota State head men’s basketball coach compared his current situation to Mayville, N.D.
Miles had his introductory press conference as he was named the San Jose State head men’s basketball coach earlier this week. He likened leading the Spartans to his first head coaching position at Mayville State.
“When I look at this job, it really reminded me of my first job, which was a small NAIA that hadn’t had success in awhile,” said Miles, who was most recently the head coach at the University of Nebraska. “They offered me the job over Easter weekend. Here we are full circle.”
Miles, 54, is returning to coaching after two seasons away, spending a chunk of that time as a television analyst, including the Big Ten Network. From Doland, S.D., Miles said he learned a couple things during his time away from coaching.
“One, is that I’m not very good on my own with free time and, two, that I love misery,” Miles said.
Miles is taking over a San Jose State program, a Mountain West Conference member, that hasn’t made the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament since 1996.
The Spartans posted a 5-16 record this past season and haven’t won double-digit games in a season since a 14-16 record in 2016-17.
“I know in my heart of hearts that San Jose is ready for a winner, San Jose State is ready to win,” Miles said.
Coincidentally, Miles’ first year at Mayville State was the 1995-96 season when the Comets posted a 17-11 record and made it to the NAIA tournament. In 1996-97, Mayville State followed with a 18-11 mark and another trip to the NAIA tournament. The Comets won back-to-back conference championships in those two seasons.
“You can take the same circumstance and apply it in other directions so to speak,” Miles said. “That was in the Midwest, that was a smaller college, but the human behavior was the same. The disappointment and disillusionment of losing and how to talk to those young guys and flip that mentality.”
Miles said the Comets had only won a couple games per season in the two previous seasons before he took over the program. Miles remembered how the shift from losing to success changed the mindset of the players on the team.
“'Coach for the first time in two years, I wear my basketball jacket around campus,'” Miles said, recalling what one of his former Mayville State players told him. “'I used to be embarrassed to wear it.'”
Miles coached at NDSU from 2001-2007, posting a 99-71 record over those six seasons, including a 20-8 mark during 2006-07. Miles was the Bison head coach during their transition to Division I from Division II. His final three seasons at NDSU, the Bison were a Division I independent. After his two-year stint at Mayville State, Miles coached four seasons at Southwest Minnesota State before he took the NDSU job.
During his time with the Bison, Miles laid the groundwork for a program that advanced to the 2009 NCAA tournament during the first season NDSU was eligible for the Big Dance. Miles said he also believes San Jose State has that potential.
“We haven’t won a ranked game for a long, long time and we haven’t gone to the NCAA tournament in a long, long time here, but we’re here to change that,” Miles said. “We’re going to create our own tradition, our own expectations.”
Miles is familiar with the Mountain West Conference, coaching at Colorado State for five seasons from 2007-2012. That stop preceded his seven seasons (2012-2019) in the Big Ten Conference as the head coach at Nebraska.
Miles said the Mountain West makeup has changed since his time at Colorado State with multiple teams leaving and entering the conference, but that experience still has value.
“It’s a little bit of a different league, but it’s the same, too,” Miles said. “I understand when you are West of the Rockies you recruit differently than you would just the Midwest.”