Southern Miss

Southern Miss faces a quick turnaround to make a hire as Doc Sadler steps down

After a enduring a difficult five-year effort to put Southern Miss basketball back in the hunt in Conference USA, Doc Sadler has decided that it’s time to move on.

Sadler announced Thursday that he is stepping down as the USM men’s basketball coach in order to pursue other career opportunities. He acknowledged that joining Fred Hoiberg’s staff at Nebraska is a good possibility. The Arkansas native also said there may be other job opportunities and that taking a year off is a possibility.

“It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while,” Sadler said. “As I told the team today, I think as a coach you ask so much of your players and you ask them to give a lot. Sometimes they may not understand it and as a coach you also understand that if you’re not giving more to them, if you’re not pushing them every day, you’re not doing your job.

“It’s been tough. Most of you know what we’ve gone through. I’m not going to say I wouldn’t change anything, but at the same time I think it’s made me a better coach. I’ve come to this decision myself after talking with (new USM athletic director Jeremy McClain) a few times. If I’m going to ask kids to give everything, they should get that in return. I’ve been a coach for 16 years, but it’s time to step back and evaluate what I’m going to do.”

McClain, who recently hired former Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross as the men’s basketball coach at Troy, said that a national search for Sadler’s replacement will begin immediately.

“I think It’s a unique situation because it’s obviously fresh in my mind from what we went through there and probably the jobs aren’t that different,” McClain said. “We’re going to start immediately this afternoon and we’re going to start this process. The time line is critical from a student-athlete perspective, from a recruiting perspective. I’m always hesitant to put an end date on a search. There are circumstances that happen that you just can’t control. We’ll work hard to get this done in a timely manner and hopefully within a 10-day period.”

McClain said it would be “ideal” to have a coach in place by April 17, which is National Signing Day, but he left himself wiggle room to take a little extra time to get the hire done.

“We can’t be short-sighted,” he said. “We’ve got to get it right. We’ve got to make sure we get the right person to lead this program. This is not about six days from now. It’s about six years from now.”

USM already has one verbal commit who dropped his pledge when Arizona junior college prospect Isaiah Jones, a 6-foot-8 power forward, announced that he was reopening his recruitment.

Sadler’s last season at USM was his best, leading the Golden Eagles to a 20-13 record, a semifinal spot in the C-USA Tournament and a bid to the CBI.

Sadler was 56-94 in five years at Southern Miss. Six of his wins from his inaugural season at Southern Miss were vacated due to the use of academically ineligible players who were recruited to USM by former coach Donnie Tyndall.

NCAA sanctions due to the conduct of Tyndall’s staff at USM from 2012-14 placed heavy limitations on Sadler during his time in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles dealt with postseason bans from 2014-16 and scholarship reductions throughout Sadler’s time at USM.

The 2019-20 season will mark the first time since the 2013-14 season that USM will be at the full scholarship limit of 13.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.