Spotlight on Rising Mid-Major Coaches: Tim Miles & Wayne TinklePosted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2011
Montana traveled to Colorado State on Friday night in a game that did not garner much national intrigue (the Rams beat the Grizzlies, 64-58). Neither team made the NCAA Tournament last season and they will be fighting tooth and nail to make it this season. Montana is predicted second in the Big Sky heading into the season, and Colorado State is projected as the fourth best team in the Mountain West. However, the game did feature of the best young mid-major coaches in all of college basketball.
Colorado State is coached by Tim Miles, who at age 45 is beginning his fifth season in Fort Collins. He began his Division I coaching career at North Dakota State, where as head coach of the transitional team (they are now Division I), he took NDSU into then #12 Wisconsin and won (2006), and then into #8 Marquette and won (in 2007). He left after a 20-win season, and two years later the players he recruited went to the NCAA Tournament.
His CSU career started somewhat rocky, as the Rams went winless in his initial Mountain West campaign. They have improved every year, however, and they were a bubble team last year after going 19-13 in a Mountain West Conference that included powerhouse teams at BYU and San Diego State. He is an energetic and charismatic guy (example: I talked to him after the game and told him I went to North Dakota, a rival of NDSU. He responded with, “Did you lose a bet?”). His players enjoy playing for him, and he has a player’s style. Wes Eikmeier, CSU’s leading scorer, took a couple of questionable shots late in the game, and Miles responded by saying he was comfortable with those shots because if Eikmeier felt like he could make them, then he should take them. That’s what players love to hear. He will get Colorado State to the Tournament either this year or next year, and then larger schools could come calling.
Montana is coached by Wayne Tinkle, also 45 years old, and a big, physically imposing man. He played for the Grizzlies in the mid-to-late ’80s, and he is doing his alma mater proud. He has a 91-64 career record in Missoula, with one NCAA Tournament appearance (you might remember it as the “Anthony Johnson Game”). He also took Montana to the Big Sky title game last season, and they will be right in the thick of things again this year.
His teams are extremely well coached defensively, as they play a tough man-to-man style. He has coached some defensive stalwarts, including former Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Brian Qvale (graduated last year), and Will Cherry, one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He interviewed and was strongly considered for the Fresno State job this past offseason, so potential jobs will be out there for him if he chooses to leave in the future. Word is that Montana and Tinkle are working on an extension.
Montana taking on Colorado State did not have the marquee focus of some of the other Friday night games, but there weren’t a lot of better coaching matchups on the real opening night of the season. Get to know these guys, because they are both going to win a lot more games in their coaching career.