Southern Miss is now without a head basketball coach.
After fives years leading the Golden Eagles program, Doc Sadler stepped down Thursday amidst reports of his return to the University of Nebraska as an assistant coach under new head coach Fred Hoiberg.
“It’s been reported that I’m going to Nebraska, and I’m going to tell you right now, that’s probably a good possibility,” Sadler said.
Sadler plans on leaving Hattiesburg Thursday and travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he’ll visit with Hoiberg and Nebraska officials this weekend.
“He knows what it’s like to work with me, and he thinks I could help him, if that’s what we decide to do,” Sadler said. “But if not, I’m going to come back home – if anybody needs to buy a house, let me know – and go enjoy the sand.”
Simply put, Sadler didn’t want to be a head coach anymore. Starting with a stint at Arkansas-Fort Smith from 1998 to 2003, he’s spent 16 seasons as a head coach.
“At this time, I do not want to be a head coach,” Sadler said. “I don’t want the responsibility every day that it requires, I don’t want the responsibility of being the person who’s holding 13 players accountable in every area that there is.
“It is unfortunate that a lot of great coaches never get that opportunity, and they don’t know what that’s like. I’ve been blessed, and in my situation it was enough. I love coaching, there’s no question about that, but I am in position now to think it’s time for somebody else to be given the opportunity. More importantly, the hardest thing about this deal is I really, really like the kids in this program.”
The news comes less than a week of the announcement of Southern Miss’ next athletics director, Jeremy McClain. McClain, who comes to Southern Miss from Troy after a stint at Southern Miss as the Deputy Director of Athletics, was part of the team who hired Sadler in 2014.
“As I mentioned it to the team today, it makes it tough knowing that Jeremy is coming in, because I think the things that are going to be done here is something that’s never been done, at least while I’ve been here, and it gives everybody a lot of hope,” Sadler said.
McClain was expected to officially start at Southern Miss as early as mid-May, but he’ll lead the charge to find Sadler’s replacement while finishing up his time at Troy.
“Apparently I’m starting today,” McClain joked.
“We’re going to start immediately – this afternoon,” McClain said. “The timeline is critical from a student-athlete perspective and from a recruiting perspective. We’re well into April, so it’s a real critical time for us in basketball terms. I’m always hesitant to put an end date on a search because there are circumstances that happen that you just can’t control, but we’ll work hard to get this thing done in a timely matter. Hopefully in a 10-day period or so.
While Sadler said he’s “tired” of being a head coach, he believes he still has a lot in the tank when it comes to being a college basketball coach. He knew he couldn’t be a long-term option at Southern Miss, though.
“Southern Miss deserves something long-term,” Sadler said. “They’ve been through too many problems. I could have done it two more years, and I talked to Jeremy about it. Southern Miss needs somebody who’s committing to them for the next five, six, seven, eight years, and if I’m going to ask my players to do that, then I should follow suit, and I couldn’t do that.”
Under an NCAA investigation and sanctions for transactions prior to his arrival, Sadler posted a 56-94 overall record at Southern Miss. He did, however, improve the program’s win total in every season. The Golden Eagles went 3-20 his first season, then they posted eight, nine and 16 wins during the next three years. He capped off his time in Hattiesburg with a 20-13 record this year, finishing in third place in Conference USA and earning a bid to the CBI.
Rumors of his return to Lincoln started when Hoiberg was hired in late March, and it picked up steam this week. While nothing is official yet, according to multiple reports, it’s widely expected for Sadler to join Hoiberg’s staff as an assistant coach.
“I still have that (coaching) feeling,” Sadler said. “I still feel like I can give something to somebody. I think Fred and Nebraska feel that way because I worked with him for a year, but this feeling was way before Fred Hoiberg.
Sadler was the head coach at Nebraska for six seasons (2006-2012), and he compiled a 101-89 overall record with three NIT appearances.
Hoiberg coached at Iowa State from 2010-15, where Sadler served as an assistant coach for one season (2013-14). Hoiberg took over as the Chicago Bulls head coach after his time at Iowa State, and he was fired after a 5-19 start to this season.