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.
“I’ve decided to make a change in the basketball program,” athletic director Tom Osborne 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.”
In their first season in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers finished 12-18 after losing 79-61 to Purdue in the first round of the league tournament on Thursday. They tied with Penn State for last place in the conference with a 4-14 record.
Sadler wept as he discussed his departure with reporters.
“You’re not looking at one of the smarter guys in this business, you’re looking a guy that tried,” he said. “Six years ago when I came here, I meant what I said. I came here to do a job and this is where I want to be.
“That hadn’t changed until today,” he said before leaving the podium for about 20 seconds to collect himself. “I wanted to be the guy that won the first NCAA tournament game. It didn’t happen. That’s the bottom line. We can all sit here and talk about this that whatever. It all comes down to winning. That’s what it should come down to.”
Osborne said he and the coaching staff thought the Huskers would be a better team this year.
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.
Sadler has 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; Osborne said he didn’t regret giving his coach the contract extension.
The program had 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.