“The University of Minnesota’s search for a men’s basketball coach became officially embarrassing when it was learned Saturday, March 30, that Flip Saunders had turned down the job.
Saunders is believed to be at least the fourth coach to say no thanks to Gophers athletic administrators Norwood Teague and Mike Ellis since they fired Tubby Smith on Monday.
Saunders, the popular former Gophers point guard and 16-year NBA coach who resides in Medina, wasn’t saying anything publicly other than he’ll always “bleed maroon and gold.”
But it was clear that Teague and Ellis, who declined to hire a search firm because they reputedly didn’t need one, put restrictions on Saunders’ hiring that the former Timberwolves coach found unacceptable.”
(via Charley Walters: Flip Saunders turning down the Gophers is embarrassing - TwinCities.com)
When the LSU job opened up a week ago, one of the first names mentioned was that of former Kentucky and current Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith. Smith has, in fact, been mentioned for just about every big-program job that has come along over the past three years, whether the jump makes sense or not. I wondered why, and since I can’t crawl inside Tubby’s pate, I did the next best thing. I asked Jonathan Foster from the Gopher-centric blog From the Barn. Here’s how our conversation went:
STF: Why is Tubby Smith ALWAYS mentioned for every BCS-level job that comes along, in your opinion?
Jonathan Foster: I think there are two factors at work here. The first is that Tubby Smith left Kentucky under his volition (though some would argue that the writing was on the wall so to speak). It seems, according to the conventional wisdom, that any one who would leave Kentucky, the greatest job in college basketball (unless you don’t like dealing with rabid fans, sky high expectations, any innumerable other issues that don’t make it the great job in college basketball) would be a candidate to leave whatever job they are currently holding.
The second factor: Tubby came to Minnesota. The assumption by those connecting Tubby Smith to every job every where is that Tubby couldn’t possibly want to be at Minnesota. He was at Kentucky after all, so of course he wants any job that isn’t Minnesota.
He is linked to all these jobs because no one outside of Minnesota could fathom that a former Kentucky coach could actually be happy in Minnesota. Sometimes it snows in April, as Prince sang.
Do you think he’s being used to generate buzz in some cases?
I wouldn’t be surprised if other programs are using Tubby to generate buzz. They know that Tubby is a big name coach, and they know that the perception exists that Tubby Smith wants out. So why not leak his name when it comes to potential coaching candidates? The athletic director doing the hiring can at least claim he went after a big name, which tends to appease the masses that think their program deserves a big name coach.
I’ve learned two rules for Tubby rumors. They are implausible if:
1. He is being linked to more than one school at a time.
2. The other candidates for the job don’t have similar credentials or experience.
The LSU rumors were the latter type.
Personality-wise, Tubby also seems to be sort of uncontroversial. I can’t imagine anyone hearing him connected with their program and going “Oh hell no.”
So, we know why people dis Minnesota, tell me what’s great about the job/place.
What makes Minnesota a good job in part has to do with what it is not.
First and probably foremost it is not Kentucky. The Minnesota job is not a pressure cooker. Every move Tubby makes is not dissected and discussed. Expectations are manageable and realistic. It has to be somewhat of relief to know that a for-sale sign won’t show up in his front yard after he loses a game.
Minnesota has a long basketball tradition, approaching 110 years, and a passionate fan base, but it is a fan base that keeps things in perspective. There is more to Minnesota than a college basketball team, and while that reduces the pressure to win, it also adds to Tubby’s quality of life. He has frequently mentioned how much he enjoys living on the river front, within walking distance to work. He appreciates living in a historic neighborhood, in a thriving city with parks, theater, music, food, etc that can compete with any big city in the country.
He has stuck around for the same reasons that many people in Minneapolis have. He just happens to coach a basketball team.
Everyone can be tempted - what job do you think would induce Tubby to leave, if any?
At this point, I can’t really see him taking any other jobs. If he received an offer from a hypothetical major conference team that is ready-made to win who throws a giant check in his face, he might leave, but that isn’t likely to happen.
Instead, most of the job offers that Tubby has allegedly received are at basketball programs that appear fundamentally broken. There were rumors that Tubby was off to South Carolina, and that program seems to be little more than a career killer. Same can be said for Auburn. While his time at Minnesota hasn’t been a smashing success by any means, he has made the program relevant again. At his age, I can’t imagine him wanting to rebuild another program.
Thanks again to Jonathan Foster for his thoughts on the endless Tubby Smith rumor mill.