Gophers fire a great coach rather than build a great team
I understand why Tubby Smith was fired after six seasons, 121 wins, 81 losses and three NCAA appearances. After playing the toughest schedule in the nation, he fired up the Minnesota fan base for Gopher hoops. After a 15-1 start and reaching number eight in the polls, expectations went through the roof and became unrealistic.
Tubby said this was his best team, and he was right, with wins over nationally ranked Michigan State, Illinois, Memphis and Wisconsin, the incredible court-rushing experience of beating number one Indiana at Williams Arena. His Gophers even beat one of the top five NCAA programs of all-time, UCLA, 83-63, the Pac 12 Champions in the NCAA tournament; and they finished 21-13 after a second-round loss to No.3 Florida.
Teague could not wait to fire Tubby! Credibility and integrity were not enough to save Tubby from the grandstanding new athletic director, who decided a rush to judgment — the famous national championship-winning coach at Kentucky had to go. The groundswell of frustration and hatred combined among some fans blinded the new AD from reality.
That reality is and was that the Gophers were not that good — no All-Americans, no All-BIG players. Sixth-year senior Trevor Mbawke never got in shape until mid-season, and Rodney Williams was never consistent.
Tubby had no chance, 8-10 in the BIG, 15-29 in February and 46-62 in the BIG Conference. Or was it his assistant coach and son’s DUI that help tilt the scale against Tubby? Again, I understand the decision, but I do not agree with it.
It sends a bad message to all people. The U of M lied to Tubby from day one. Joel Maturi, then the AD, promised him a practice facility. The coach he replaced, Dan Munson, was 95-93 overall and 38-58 in the BIG, and he reached the NCAAs once.
Because Tubby came here a winner and told the athletic department what he needed to win, they did not give him the tools to compete like other championship programs in the BIG and across the nation. They said trust us, Tubby, and he waited.
They never delivered. They built a great multi-million-dollar arena for women’s hockey. They were 41-0 and won 49 straight back-to-back NCAA titles. They built a wonderful arena for men’s hockey also. After all, this is the state of hockey.
Lionel Hollins, NBA Memphis Grizzlies head coach, whose son Austin is one of the Gophers stars, said, “It’s not my call. I told him this is the business of basketball. Everyone is disappointed that Tubby was let go,”
Minnesota has become the land of 10,000 buyouts — Munson, Glen Mason, Tim Brewster, now Tubby’s $3.1 million. I don’t get it. Teague pays North Carolina $800,000 to not play in fear of losing to ensure Jerry Kills’ Gophers of finding a lesser opponent to play and have a chance at being Bowl eligible.
Tubby plays the toughest schedule in the land in the toughest conference. He wins and he gets fired. I don’t get it.
Teague is delusional and so are Gopher fans. Twelve NCAA trips in 100 years of basketball do not allow you to think you are suddenly Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA, Louisville or Indiana.
Last I heard, the football team sets the tone for your athletic program. It does at Wisconsin with six Rose Bowl trips in 15 years. The Gophers last went in 1961. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Northwestern — all of these schools’ football teams have consistently been superior to Minnesota. Has the football program gotten better since Glen Mason was fired? I don’t think so. Why? Because it’s difficult to get great coaches to come to Minnesota.
They know you have lied through your teeth in the past. Teague had everyone convinced he could get Shaka Smart, Fred Hoiberg, Flip Saunders. At least 10 coaches have told Teague no, and counting.
Thanks to firing Tubby, the program will remain in a hole for years to come. That’s what happens when you lie to a man with 522 wins, 17 NCAA appearances, nine teams to the Sweet 16 in 22 years as a coach. The candidates say to themselves, “If they lied to Tubby, they will lie to me, I’ll pass thank you.”
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.