New Husker assistant Armon Gates finds right fit with Tim Miles and Nebraska

New Husker assistant Armon Gates finds right fit with Tim Miles and Nebraska
Armon Gates helped lead Northwestern to its first NCAA tournament berth and victory. (Northwestern Athletics)

LINCOLN — Less than a month ago, Armon Gates left Northwestern after five seasons to become associate head basketball coach at Florida with a salary of around $350,000.

On Monday, Gates was introduced as a new assistant at Nebraska with no title and at a salary about $100,000 less.

What happened?

Details remain scarce. Gates said he wasn’t fired or pressured to leave. After three weeks on the job and before he moved his family, he had second thoughts about how he “fit’’ into the Florida program.

Gates told Florida coach Mike White about his doubts, and asked permission to talk with Nebraska. Gates knew NU needed a coach, and current Husker aide Michael Lewis is a longtime friend.

Husker coach Tim Miles actually had interviewed Gates for an assistant’s job when Miles first arrived in Lincoln seven years ago. Miles said Monday he called White and Northwestern coach Chris Collins and got good comments from both about Gates.

“Armon is a guy who has always been on our radar,’’ Miles said Monday. “He’s got such a good reputation. Armon is an exciting addition for us.’’

Gates signed a two-year contract that pays him $256,000 per year. The 2017-18 salaries for Nebraska assistants were $300,000 for Kenya Hunter (who left for Connecticut), $255,267 for Jim Molinari and $244,200 for Lewis.

Gates said Miles’ bubbly personality reminds him of his own.

“He loves to laugh and have fun,’’ Gates said. “I feel that’s very important when it comes to family life and work life.’’

Gates is a Chicago native who played at Kent State and left as the school’s second-leading 3-point shooter.

Though he has obvious recruiting ties in Illinois, Gates also has had success mining prospects in Ohio, Michigan, Washington and various prep schools. His alma mater is Brewster Academy, which was home for current Nebraska players Isaac Copeland and Thomas Allen.

Gates played for Brewster coach Jason Smith.

“Coach Smitty is going to continue to feed us,’’ Gates said, smiling. “Brewster is going strong here in Huskerland, but we’re looking to add a couple of more pieces.’’

Smith has been a graduate assistant at Western Kentucky for one year, an assistant at Kent State for two, an assistant at TCU for one and an assistant at Loyola (Chicago) for two before going to Northwestern for five.

Having been on the opposing bench in facing Nebraska, Gates said, has given him appreciation for the job Miles has done. He said the Northwestern staff considers NU a “top three in the league’’ difficult place to play.

“I love the energy and passion that’s around this area,’’ Gates said. “I feel like the ceiling is ready to blow off.

“What coach Miles and his staff have done here is tremendous. It’s not easy to do.’’

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