The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, November 10, 1998, Page 13, Image 13

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Huskers Coach Danny Nee
talks, coaches his own way
By David Wilson
Senior staff writer
In an instant, play stops.
Firmly gripping a worn basketball
with both hands, Danny Nee makes his
way across the practice court with a
familiar scowl on his face.
He plants his feet near the free
throw line and glares at the huddle of
young players under the basket.
Nee, in his 13th season as
Nebraska’s head coach, will be the First
to tell you that in his world, communica
tion is the key.
“You shoot the damn thing,” Nee
yells as he walks awkwardly toward the
hoop, extending his arms. “Don’t screw
He’s blunt. He doesn’t deny it.
And though his mouth has drawn
him much criticism from fans and
media since he arrived in Lincoln in
1986, Nee credits his communication
skills for putting him where he is today.
“The whole thing is communica
tion,” Nee said. “You listen real close,
you understand what’s being asked of
you or what’s expected - and you
respond accordingly.
“I don’t do it well: I do it verv well ”
There have been times, though,
when Nee’s communication skills - or
lack thereof - have come back to haunt
Like at the end of the 1997 season,
when Nee was criticized for openly
showing interest in a coaching job at
Rutgers. Or the time in 1996 when he
was quoted in local papers, referring to
opponents as “cocksuckers.” And, of
course, there was the player walkout of
But does Nee ever regret anything
he’s said or done?
“Oh, hell yeah,” Nee said. “Every
year I say something or do something
that I just shake my head and go, ‘Man,
that was dumb.’ But if you’re not doing
something, nothing is going to happen.
You have to make things happen.
“Being the basketball coach at a pre
mier school, you have to be proactive.
You have to attack problems. You have
to attack situations.”
That’s the enthusiasm that NU
Athletic Director Bill Byrne loves.
Stand by your man
Through all the criticism, postsea
son losses, and other situations Nee has
found himself in, Byrne has consistent
ly stood behind his coach.
“Sometimes Danny is honest to a
fault,” Byrne said. “He says stuff to
reporters, and believe it or not, they put
it into their computers and never forget
“But I like his enthusiasm. He’s a
very funny guy. He has a way about him
where people like to be around him.”
That wasn’t the case in 1996 when
nearly the entire basketball team
skipped out of practice to meet with
There was a lesson learned that win
ter day -by both the players and by Nee.
“We had some young people who
weren’t being very mature,” Byrne said.
“They forgot that the University of
Nebraska athletic program is more than
just a few individual athletes.”
Among other things, Nee learned
that he had the full support of Byrne.
“It was not an issue once the players
knew there was nothing to discuss,” Nee
said. “But I was hurt and disappointed. I
don’t think it ever should have gotten to
that point.
“It was really a frustration of how
we were playing. We were more talented
than that, and everybody knew it.”
Taking care of business
After the walkout, the 1995-96
Husker team went on to win the
National Invitation Tournament - the
only national tournament crown won by
a Nebraska basketball team.
But success in the postseason for
Nee has been scarce, leading to more
criticism from fans and media. In 10
appearances, Nee’s Husker teams are a
combined 13-9 overall and 0-5 in the
NCAA Tournament.
Last season, NU fell to Arkansas in
the first round of the NCAAs.
“Here at Nebraska, we have not
been able to take care of business,” said
Nee, who was 1-2 in NCAA
Tournament games in six seasons at
Ohio before coming to Lincoln. “I’ve
won games. I know I can win. And I
believe it will happen.”
In 12 seasons at NU, Nee has com
piled a 223-158 record while guiding
the Huskers to postseason appearances
in each of the last eight years.
But when Nebraska struggles, the
finger shouldn’t be pointed directly at
Nee, said senior forward Troy
“I just don’t think it’s fair for every
body to judge him the way they do at
basketball games,” Piatkowski said.
“You know what they think of him. I
think it’s unfair. It’s not his fault. It’s
mostly our fault - but he gets the whole
blame. Nobody knows the other side of
voacn rsee liKe we
Nee on Nee
Though he’s a
tough coach in
practice, Piatkow
ski said, Nee does
n’t have a hard time
relating to players.
Both Byrne and
NU Assistant
Coach Jimmy
Williams said they
nave seen rsee s reiauonsmp witn ms
players develop over the last few years.
“He’s mellowed quite a bit since I’ve
been here,” said Williams, who came to
Nebraska in 1991. “He’s settled down,
and he’s a lot more patient with things.
“Danny really knows who he is and
knows where he is. I think that comes
with maturity and comes with age.”
Nee admitted he has matured since
arriving in Nebraska at the age of 41.
At 53, Nee said he knows how he is
perceived, and he doesn’t let the criti
cism get to him.
“I don’t have control over that,” Nee
said. “The thing I can tell you is that I
think it’s important to know who you
“I know who Danny Nee is.”
White men can’t jump?
Nee grew up in New York, where he
played basketball with Kareem Abdul
Jabbar - then known as Lew Alcindor -
at Power Memorial High School.
He experienced success on the best
team in me city at me time - and eventu
ally earned a scholarship to play at
“Power Memorial was the Rolls
Royce of high school teams in New York
City,” Nee said. “We won a lot of games.
“You were playing with, I think,
now, looking back on it, maybe the best
player that ever played. How many peo
ple can say that? He took an average
white guy and got me a scholarship to
college. I appreciate that.”
From then on, success didn’t just fall
in Nee’s lap.
He was living away from the East
Coast for the first time in his life - far
away from his roots.
Nee adjusted quickly and captained
the Warriors’ freshman team, leading
the squad in scoring, but he forgot to be
a student as well. So he joined the U.S.
Marine Corps.
“Once I hit the bar scene, and I
wasn’t playing, and I was struggling
academically, I just joined the Marine
Corps,” Nee said.
Then came Vietnam.
‘it sucked, Nee
said. “It was hard,
r Vietnam was a bad
* deal. You go back -
why did you make it
and your buddy
didn’t. Then, we were
not received well
back here. In ’68
when I got out, we
were perceived as
killers. In the Marine
Corps, if you don’t
train to kill - what the
he Marine Corns is
neu, mat s wnat me Marine i^orps is.
“It was a really bad deal. It messed
me up. It just messed me up. It took me
a long time to get over that physically,
emotionally and mentally. You’re a
Vietnam veteran - it’s something that
you never forget. It was 30 years ago,
but it was like yesterday.
“I don’t think my players - they
don’t know what the hell went on. But
that’s what I am. That’s where I’m from,
and that’s what I deal with.”
Every year I say something or do something
that I just shake my head and go ‘Man that
was dumb’ But if you ’re not doing
something, nothing is going to happen.”
Danny Nee
NU basketball coach
. . _ . hell that’s; what 1
Mike Warren/DN
HEAD BASKETBALL CDACH DANNY NEE enters his 13th season at Nebraska, where he holds a 223-158 record. The
men’s team begins regular season play in the Devaney Sports Center on Nov. 14.
A breath of sunshine
After receiving a bachelor’s degree
at St. Mary of the Plains College in
Dodge City, Kan., Nee returned to the
East Coast to coach the junior varsity
basketball team at Red Bank, N.J.,
Regional High School in 1972.
He then coached at Brick Township,
N.J., High School before moving on to
coach at Ohio University.
“When I started off, no one gave me
a break,” Nee said. “Every goal that was
reached was by hard work and gettin
after it - persistence ”
Twenty-six years af becoming a
coach, Nee said he appreciates what he
has worked for.
“Akrmt Tan ^ u/hpn thp rMphraclfn
football) bowl game is over, I think I’m
the envy of most sports fans in
Nebraska,” Nee said. “Then, and espe
cially the second week of March, when
it’s tournament madness, I’m getting up
in the morning, and I’m happy to go to
work. Going to work every day, most
years, is a pleasure. This year, it’s been
like a breath of sunshine.
“I’ve been dealt a pretty good hand.
I’m the basketball coach at Nebraska -
and to have a family, I feel real lucky.”
An honest Abe in Lincoln
The toughest part of his job right
now, Nee said, is recruiting.
“We’re not people’s first choice,”
Nee said. “It’s hard.”
Nee has also been criticized for let
Please see NEE on 15