First things first: we join and support the observations made by our longtime friend Sid Hartman in his columns last week that “Firing Smith would be a big mistake for Gophers.”
Once again, the University of Minnesota (1) showed no class; (2) showed no professionalism; and (3) lied, firing Coach Smith just three months after signing him to a three-year extension. They leaked it to the news media before telling Tubby. They tried to cover with “leaks happen” when it kept secret a year it’s extending the contract of its losing women’s basketball coach.
They purposefully attempted to humiliate a great coach, a decent human being, and a recognized high-caliber coach with a national title to his credit. Instead, they humiliated themselves, showed their indecency, and exposed the pettiness of self-centered bureaucrats.
No wonder top coaches and athletes shy away from the UM. The university continues to be driven by the politics of cutting the ground out from under coaches in general and Black coaches in particular.
After six years of rebuilding, turning around what was a crumbling basketball program, and winning the UM’s first NCAA tournament game in 16 years, Tubby is unceremoniously fired. The tax payers will now pay for the arrogance and incompetence of the athletic department: $2.5 million to Tubby and a total of $6M overall.
Imagine: they fired all of his staff. There will be no continuity with coaching staff and players. Disrespect, manipulation, and deviousness oozes out of the UM athletic department.
Some say the next coach of the Gopher basketball team will be Flip Saunders, former UM and NBA star and coach. He would be advised to take the offer of Glen Taylor to be VP of Basketball operations for the MN Timberwolves. Flip, I have to say, that’s your best bet.
With this administration, how can anyone salvage what the university has done to the Gopher Basketball program? Some, such as former coach Dutcher, saw the chance to plunge the dagger into the back of Tubby Smith. I now have a better understanding of why former UM assistant basketball coach Jimmy Williams was denied the opportunity to go to work with Coach Smith and display his reputation as one of the top recruiters in America.
Maybe Jim Dutcher forgot the excellent recruitment that Jimmy Williams did for the Gopher program in the 1980s. Will any new coach be able to move the University to build that new practice facility that was promised Coach Tubby Smith six years ago? Will Norwood Teague and Gopher alumni really be able do something about making the 82-year-old facility known as the “barn” a more attractive recruitment tool?
I was especially saddened, once again, by the silence of Black alumni for not standing up, defending and speaking out on behalf of Coach Smith. They have not spoken out before. When will they? There are now no Black faces in positions of authority and responsibility in the Gopher Athletic Department.
Black athletes can entertain us and make money for the University in football, basketball, baseball, and other sports but with few to none being employed by the University. That doctrine seems to be the cornerstone of Minnesota thinking, another reason as to why it is so tough to recruit Black athletes to the University of Minnesota.
Does the university want to return to the glory days of Bernie Berman and the White Golden Era of the 1930s? Will they be able to sign young Black players like Tyus Jones to lead them to the promised land of championships? You have to hope that whatever this young man does that he’ll do it some place where his skills and his pedigree will be respected instead of disrespected as done to Coach Tubby Smith.
Again, I must applaud Sid Hartman and other Star Tribune writers for not being silent about this big mistake made by the university leadership. Tubby Smith leaves MN with his head held high, his integrity intact and his legacy of greatness forever etched in the annals of collegiate sports. Tubby did it the right way.
Best of luck, Tubby. Your six years here should be a lesson on what is important: integrity, respect and love of the game. You exhibited all these. May God give you the strength to stay on the path of continued success.
And now, once again, there are no Black Big Ten coaches. That doesn’t fit the statistics of most coaches being former players and half the players being Black.
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at www.TheMinne apolisStory.com. Columns are archived at www.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm.