"We're going to the NCAA tournament. That's where we're going. I don't care anything about winning a lot of games. I care about one thing. I care about playing in the NCAA tournament."
And with that statement, Doc Sadler began his tenure as the 20th head coach in Southern Miss history.
Sadler was announced at a press conference on May 1, 2014, bringing over 30 years of coaching experience to Hattiesburg. In eight years as a Division I head coach, his teams have averaged nearly 19 wins a year, as he holds a record of 149-107. As a head coach, his teams have posted winning marks in 11 of his 12 years, with seven squads having won at least 20 games. Overall, he owns a 269-146 in 12 seasons as a college head coach.
During his coaching tenure, Sadler has been associated with 16 postseason teams in 21 seasons, including five in eight years at the Division I level, while helping 19 players reach the National Basketball Association.
Sadler spent the last two years at Kansas and Iowa State respectively, winning two Big XII titles and advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen both years. While at ISU, Sadler learned under head coach Fred Hoiberg, who plays an NBA style of offense, which Sadler brings to Southern Miss.
Sadler spent six years at Nebraska, compiling a 101-89 record and three NIT appearances. Sadler opened his tenure with the Cornhuskers with five straight wins, including his 50th as a Division I coach over nationally-ranked Creighton. He went on to guide NU to 17 wins, tying for the third-most victories by a first-year coach in Nebraska history.
In 2007-08, Sadler led his second squad to 20 victories, just the 12th 20-win season in program history and the first since 1999, guiding the Huskers to the second round of the NIT.
The following year, Nebraska earned an 18-13 record, including an 8-8 record in Big XII play. It was the first .500 conference record by the Huskers in a decade, and ended with their second straight NIT appearance.
That year, Nebraska had the best scoring defense in the league at 60.4 points per game, the second-best mark at NU in the last 50 years. The Huskers' second straight NIT appearance marked the first time in a decade that Nebraska had played in the postseason in consecutive years.
Following a year that saw Sadler put the youngest team in the Big XII on the floor, Sadler led Nebraska to the NIT in 2010-11, earning a 19-13 record. The Huskers were led by a defense that ranked in the top-20 nationally in both scoring and field goal percentage. The 89 wins in his first five seasons are the most by an NU coach in Nebraska history.
Sadler, 55, began his Division I head coach career by spending two seasons leading the program at UTEP, where he helped continue the long-standing tradition of success in Miners basketball.
Sadler's UTEP teams boasted 48 victories in his two years as head coach and won 72.7-percent of their games. Including his first season with the Miners as an assistant coach, Sadler helped UTEP to 72 victories over three years, ranking the Miners 20th nationally in victories during that span. The Miners gained three straight postseason appearances with Sadler on the bench.
A native of Greenwood, Ark., Sadler made one of the most successful Division I coaching debuts in college basketball history, as his 2004-05 Miners squad ran to an impressive 27-8 record and an NCAA Tournament berth. UTEP won a school-record 14 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) games and its first WAC Tournament title in 15 years to earn the league's automatic bid.
The 27 wins were one off the UTEP school record. They also put Sadler in rare territory, as the mark still ranks ninth in NCAA history for victories by a first-year Division I coach.
Sadler led UTEP to 21 victories in 2005-06 and an NIT berth, relying on a defense that ranked 15th nationally by allowing only 59.5 points per game. UTEP set a C-USA record by allowing just 56 points per game in conference play in 2005-06, and also allowed teams to hit just 40.6 percent from the floor on the year, the program's best mark since 1974.
While solid defense is a staple of his teams, Sadler understands the need to put creative scorers in a position to flourish. That was especially noticeable in his first UTEP team, as the 2005 Miners set the school record for points scored (2,616, 74.7 ppg), assists (579) and free throw percentage (.792).
Sadler helped two players, Omar Thomas and Filberto Rivera, earn first-team All-WAC honors in 2005, the first time UTEP had a pair of players on the first team in 20 years. Thomas also earned MVP honors after an outstanding performance at the league tournament. A year later, John Tofi, one of two 1,000-point scorers on the squad, was the third Miner to earn a first-team all-league certificate under Sadler.
Before taking over as head coach, Sadler was an assistant at UTEP under then-head coach Billy Gillispie in 2003-04 when the Miners made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than a decade. Under Gillispie and Sadler, UTEP tied the biggest turnaround in NCAA history that season as it went from six wins the previous year to 24 wins in Sadler's first season assisting the Miners.
Sadler honed his coaching skills in his native state, as he served as a head coach in the junior college ranks for five years at Arkansas-Fort Smith from 1999 to 2003. His success as a head coach began there, as he posted a 120-39 record at Fort Smith.
Sadler served two stints as an assistant coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith, first in 1988-91 and then again during the 1997-98 season. He took over as head coach and athletic director in 1998 and served in that capacity until 2003 when he left to join Gillispie at UTEP.
Sadler's teams won the Bi-State East Conference title each of his last four years at Arkansas-Fort Smith. The 2001 and 2002 NJCAA Region II Coach of the Year, Sadler led the Lions to the region title and an appearance in the NJCAA Tournament while winning 30 games each of those seasons. Off the court, his teams had a 95-percent graduation rate during his tenure and every sophomore over his last two seasons at UAFS was awarded a scholarship to a four-year institution, including eight Division I scholarships.
Honing his administrative and fundraising skills, Sadler oversaw a department that posted a 72.4 winning percentage across all sports under his guidance while he also spearheaded efforts to build a new basketball arena for the university.
Considered by many to be a tremendous tactician and strategist, Sadler is equally as impressive on the recruiting paths. Sadler has signed eight players who have gone on to play in the NBA, including Michael Batiste, Tony Battie, Cory Carr, Mark Davis, Darvin Ham, Eddie House, Maurice Jeffers and Jason Sasser.
Sadler has also coached 11 other players who reached the NBA -- Greg Anderson, Mario Bennett, Randy Brown, Isaac Burton, Byron Irvin, Joe Klein, Andrew Lang, Ron Riley, Alvin Robertson, Darrell Walker and Rickie Winslow. Overall, Sadler's total is an impressive 19 former pupils who reached the highest level of professional basketball.
As an assistant coach, Sadler served stints at nine current Division I schools, including Arkansas (1982-85, under Coach Eddie Sutton), Lamar (1985-86, under Coach Pat Foster), Houston (1986), Chicago State (1987-88, under Coach Tommy Suitts), Texas Tech (1991-94, under Coach James Dickey), Arizona State (1994-97, under Coach Bill Freider), UTEP (2003-04, under Coach Billy Gillispie), Kansas (2012-13 under Coach Bill Self) and Iowa State (2013-14 under Coach Fred Hoiberg).
Over 14 full seasons as a Division I assistant coach, 11 of his teams reached the postseason, including ASU's 1996 team that reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. At Texas Tech, Sadler helped the Red Raiders to the 1993 Southwest Conference title and an NCAA appearance. He recruited talent that helped the Red Raiders to a 28-1 record and a Sweet 16 appearance in 1996.
The energetic Sadler also served one season as a high school coach, guiding County Line High School to a 38-7 record.
Sadler, who was a four-year student manager for the Arkansas Razorbacks under Coach Eddie Sutton, earned his bachelor's degree in physical education in 1982 before beginning his collegiate coaching career with Sutton at Arkansas. Sadler added a masters of science degree in education from Northeastern State in 1991.
Sadler and his wife, Tonya, who is also a native of Greenwood, Ark., have two sons, Landon (21) and Matthew (18).