March 9, 2011

Despite struggles, players give Sadler full support

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Even with as much progress as Nebraska appeared to make over the course of the season compared to years past, the fact remains that the Huskers ended up in the same old spot once again - left out of the NCAA Tournament for the 13th year in a row.

For many NU fans, patience is running out for the basketball program to finally put forth a winning product, one that could both be routinely competitive in conference play and also make at least the occasional appearance in the Big Dance.

For a few of those fans, their patience has already run out.

The clamoring for the removal of head coach Doc Sadler as head coach has likely reached its loudest level yet, as his Huskers missed a golden opportunity to earn a tournament berth by losing three of their final four regular season games and going one-and-done in the Big 12 Tournament.

But if you ask Nebraska's players about the job Sadler has done in his five seasons in Lincoln, you would think he's done far more than his 89-70 record at NU would indicate.

"He's the best coach I've ever had," senior point guard Lance Jeter said. "People don't realize, Coach Doc is always going to keep it real. They don't see what Coach Doc does off the court, and they don't see what Coach Doc does on the court in practice. Coach Doc is one of the best coaches I've ever had, and I feel all my teammates would vouch for me when I say that.

"He's just a wonderful coach. The whole coaching staff is wonderful. Coach Doc, he can design the plays for us, but we've got to go out and play. At the end of the day, we didn't execute it. Coach Doc can put us in position to win games, and when it comes down to it we've got to be the ones that make it. Personally, Coach Doc is one of the best coaches I've ever had on the court or off the court. He's a father figure, a mentor who I look up to, and he's going to be very successful for years to come, especially next year."

Jeter was far from the only Huskers to voice strong support for Sadler and his staff. Returning players such as junior guard Brandon Richardson - the only remaining player from Sadler's first true recruiting class at NU in 2007-08 - said he firmly believed Nebraska would eventually take the next step as a program, saying the players were just as accountable for both the team's struggles and successes on the court.

"I think he's turning it around," Richardson said. "People might think that to turn it around we have to make the NCAA Tournament, but at the same time, he's a coach and not a player. He demands so much out of us, and Doc is probably one of the best coaches I've ever had because he pushes you to a limit you think you can't go. I can't say enough about Doc."

The negativity surrounding the current state of the program under Sadler hasn't gone unnoticed within Nebraska's locker room, either.

Whether it's posts on message boards, stories in the newspaper or rants on sports talk radio, the Huskers have heard a lot of what fans think of their performance under Sadler. In their opinion, though, the team isn't far from finally becoming what so many fans so desperately hope it can be.

They just hope those fans stick with them, and their coach, until they get there.

"I think a lot of people are really judgmental of Nebraska basketball," senior guard Drake Beranek said. "I read a book on (legendary basketball coach) Don Meyer called "Faith, Family and Friends", and I think if more people would have faith in the basketball team, and not criticize at the first sign of trouble, I think this program would be a lot better off.

"We've got a lot of good things going for us, coming back off a 2-14 year and going 7-9. That's not great, but it's not 2-14. It's been a gut-check season, and hopefully they'll keep the momentum up. We've got new facilities and all this stuff now, and there's no reason we can't be competitive in the Big Ten. I just really hope that people support us."

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