HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - “Doc-ed” out in what has become his trademark togs of long-sleeved T-shirt and practice sweats, former University of Southern Mississippi men’s basketball coach Doc Sadler walked into a jam-packed team meeting room at Reed Green Coliseum.
“It’s been a tough day,” Sadler said.
Less than two hours before taking a seat at his final news conference in Hattiesburg and quite possibly his last anywhere as head coach, Sadler had announced his resignation Thursday morning after a five-year run with the Golden Eagles.
“I’ve come to this decision myself,” Sadler said. “At this time, I just do not want to be a head coach. I do not want the responsibility."
“Every day, which is what it requires, I do not want the responsibility for holding 13 players accountable in every area that there is. I do not want that at this point, and if I’m going to ask kids to give everything, then they should get that in return.”
Sadler, 59, said he not only needs to continue to work but want to, and confirmed that he intended to travel to Lincoln, Neb., Friday to talk with his one-time boss and potential future boss, Fred Hoiberg, about a position on his University of Nebraska staff.
Sadler, who spent six years as head coach in Nebraska, worked a year with Hoiberg at Iowa State University.
“I think I’ve got a lot still offer, I still have that feeling,” Sadler said. “I still feel like I can give something to somebody, and I think Fred and Nebraska feels that way. I’m not burnt out at all.
“But, I told (Hoiberg), ‘Don’t get confused now. Don’t think everybody likes me. They fired me.’”
Newly-appointed USM athletic director Jeremy McClain, who attended the news conference alongside Sadler, said a national search for the Golden Eagles’ next men’s basketball coach would begin Thursday afternoon.
Sadler had three years left on a contract that was paying him about $350,000 a year.
“The timeline and timing is critical from a student-athlete’s perspective, from a recruiting perspective,” McClain said. “I’m always hesitant to put an end date on a search because there are circumstances that happen that are beyond your control, but we will work hard to get this thing done in a really timely manner, hopefully, within a 10-day period or so.
McClain said while members of Sadler’s staff would not be excluded from the search, because of what is expected to be a relatively short timeframe, no interim head coach will be named.
After losing five senior perimeter players from a team that went 20-13 this past season, USM added three guards in the early signing period and have additional commitments for the upcoming signing period.
““We’ve got to get it right, and that will be the main objective, to get it right,” McClain said. “Signing day’s right around the corner and there’s a couple guys committed to us, but we’ll work through that.
“We can’t be short-sighted. We have to make sure we get the right person to lead this program. It’s not about the six days from now, but the next six years.”
Sadler said he talked Thursday morning to the returning players on the team, but had assistants call signees/recruits so that there would be no appearance of tampering/influence on his part.
McClain, who had been at USM when Sadler was hired in the spring of 2014, had spent nearly the past four years as the athletic director at Troy University.
Sadler took the USM job in the spring of 2014, and within weeks, the program was handed harsh NCAA sanctions, that included a multi-year, self-imposed postseason ban, stiff scholarship reductions and other recruiting restrictions.
Less than a month ago, McClain oversaw a coaching overhaul in men’s basketball, removing the sitting coach and leading the search for his replacement.
The difference at USM was that McClain was hoping Sadler would stay in Hattiesburg for the next few years at least and continue to build on the foundation that he created from NCAA rubble.
“He’s poured himself into this thing for five years, into a difficult situation to be in,” McClain said. “He inherited a difficult situation, and he’s put us in a good spot as a program. I commend him for that and appreciate him being honest.”
The two had talked over the past week about USM’s program, the players and Sadler’s feelings about the job and the future.
“I told Jeremy, ‘This program deserves something special,’ and I really felt like I might could do it for a year or two, but I know how hard it is,” Sadler said. “I’ve done it, and it is hard, hard to build a culture, a championship culture.”
Still, as much as Sadler said he’s ready to drop the head coaching title, his voice quavered a few times Thursday.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Sadler said. “This is it. I got emotional this morning because I’m not going to be head coach again.”
And Sadler said leaving Hattiesburg was made a lot tougher with the return of McClain.
“It makes it tough knowing Jeremy is coming in,” Sadler said. “The things that are going to be done here are some things that have never been done while I’ve been here, and he gives everybody a lot of hope.”
Though Sadler leaves USM with a 64-94 career mark, he said he leaves knowing he has left the program in a better place.
“I gave them everything I had, didn’t shortchange them,” Sadler said. “We’re not where we want to be, but I think it’s stable and I can guarantee you one thing, there won’t be anyone coming in here in the next year or two years or three, and saying ‘Well, they did this and this and … ’ and that won’t happen.
“So, I feel really, really good about my last five years as a head coach. We had a good run.”