Catching up with new San Jose State men’s basketball head coach Tim Miles offered similar success indicators to first meeting new Spartan head football coach Brent Brennan in 2017.
As we all judge the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders of our college sports flagship programs, it’s the same analyzation skills we humble sports writers use so to understand these coaches and what to expect.
Hopefully, it all sets the tone for what a community and alumni can finally expect after decades and decades of near zero basketball success.
Inside Miles’ 24-year basketball life
For comparison and context, Miles is essentially starting far ahead of Brennan considering Brennan’s first-ever head coaching job was with the Spartans starting in 2017.
So, almost immediately, that’s pressure for Miles to be successful right out of the gate. It’s expected pressure well within Miles’ comfort zone.
San Jose State is Miles sixth head coaching job. His other teams: Mayville State, North Dakota State, Southwest Minnesota State, Colorado State and Nebraska. Miles led Nebraska and Colorado State to the first round of the NCAA tourney and was Big Ten coach of the year in 2014. After Miles was let go by Nebraska in 2019, he spent two years in the broadcast booth for Fox Sports and the Big Ten Network.
After his introductory Spartan press conference, an hour or so skimming Twitter and YouTube and casual 30-minute quasi-psych-eval banter, it can be confirmed Miles most certainly is a force-of-nature when it comes to energy, intelligence and just simply connecting on a personal and human level.
“The one thing I’ll tell you about basketball is it can be an EKG,” said Miles. “You have these peaks and valleys of a season and a game. We’re doing great and you’re just riding the wave. Well, you can’t get too far up so you don’t get too far down. And as an emotional person, you always have to be self-aware of what’s going on, which helps me be aware of everything about the team.”
But with two years away from the game and living and working in his first big city as a head coach, perhaps there’s a still going to be some kind of learning curve.
“Being out for two years and working as a broadcaster, I still got a chance to go to games and practices and what was fascinating when asked what you’ve learned in the last two years - I say it doesn’t matter,” shared Miles. “It doesn’t matter what I’ve learned, It always matters how connected you are with the team. I really think that in this day and age you have to have that thoughtful connection, and that’s what really matters most. And if you can have that, if you can have everybody together on the same page in that way, any peaks and valleys become easier to manage.”
All of the world in one big city
Understanding San Jose State’s deep history behind social justice and civil rights, Miles is also keenly aware of his position of influence and significance to stand with the players, students and the generation that expects to change the future.
Unlocking a basketball players’ potential and any student-athlete and to get their buy-in only happens if we understand and respect the aspects that shape them and affect their existence.
“Our world right now is a really complicated place. We’ve had more division over the last four or five years and more negativity on the rise with more disenfranchisement and more people discriminated against, and people are really speaking up,” says Miles with added emphasis. “As a coach, I think it’s absolutely important to talk about that with your team about our place in society and how we need to help contribute.”
Miles continued, “Where we all fit into this world, it’s unique. It’s not just stay in your lane. It’s not shut up and dribble. It’s how can we make an impact. We need to look at the wrongs and try to make them right more than ever before and understanding our student-athletes from the ground up is a given.”
It might be easy to say Miles could be a great recruiter but that term borders being an insult. With a slight bit more thought, it’s more clear Miles holds a level of natural compassion that can endear himself to anyone that works with him, for him and around him.
But with the business of basketball at hand, there’s the rest of us who might not understand or care as much about the humanity of it all. Fortunately, or unfortunately that’s the rest of the real world.
“Well, if you think about it, the real reason I’m here at San Jose State and not still at Nebraska is because we had some injuries late in my last year and the expectation was, we were going to win more than we did,” reflected Miles. “We only won 19 games in my last season there and soon after I was in broadcasting.”
You gotta win, baby!
The biggest requirement for a good level of longevity is to obviously win, regardless of how great a guy you are.
“That’s always the $64,000 question. How you develop that depth and accentuate our players’ strengths, especially on offense is what we’ll figure out,” said Miles. “So, let’s just say, if we have outstanding perimeter shooting, we’re going to be really good. If we don’t, then how do we make up for that deficit, because right now that is where the game really is at.”
Continuing to dive more into the X’s and O’s and Miles’ philosophies and approaches doesn’t take too much of a basketball mind to figure out. It’s about how Miles will teach and educate players to maximize situations, combinations of situations and to read it all naturally and quickly on their own on the floor.
“Being three-point heavy with more attempts than ever, I’d like to think our game is more than just defending the three’s and making the three’s, but those are critical, critical environments,” as Miles gathered into his innate basketball mindset. “We’ll collect enough talent to be competitive in the Mountain West and not be a bottom third team at least in year one.”
Miles eyes glimmer a bit more when delving into defense.
“It could be a lot of man defense and one that doesn’t have to foul a tremendous amount but can get people off the three-point line,” said Miles said. “One of my main concerns is to also have the length to protect the rim, because if we’re going to chase teams off the line, they’re going next to the rim. And if we don’t have anybody there, well, let’s just say, we don’t need to give up a lot of layups. So basically, how we protect that rim is really critical too, and there’s a lot of ways to do it.”
Miles continues to flow, “You can have your shot blockers and you can take a lot of charges, but getting the right people that are willing to step in there and physically give themselves up for those things is tough, but I’m confident we’ll figure that part out and have a productive defense.”
“Now, if we’re not making outside shots, we’ll get it going in multiple ways, whether it’s in transition, second shots, getting to the foul line and having everybody conditioned to get back and let our defense create offensive opportunities,” an excited Miles pushes on. “We’ll figure out how to get more shots than the other guys and we’ll always be adjusting.”
As refreshing as it is to hear a head coach be transparent and welcoming, there’s so much going on in Miles’ basketball brain that hopefully the community and fans at large will soon feel and buy into.
His is a basketball life that is constantly on and all that can emanate from it has the feeling of a legacy guy, just as the sense Brennan echoed years before we experienced all that was promised on and off the gridiron.
“I’ve been a coach and a Power 5 coach long-enough to understand how it all works and needs to work,” Miles collecting his last few thoughts. “We’re attracting good transfers from Power 5 schools and we’re recruiting at a high-level and that’s just the beginning. As we get them all up to speed and figure out how everyone’s strengths can help each other and the team, we might just have a winning product on the floor immediately.”