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Tubby Smith on thin ice in Minnesota?

May 27, 2010, 1:46 AM EDT

ALLEN FREDRICKSON / Reuters

Tubby Smith’s rough spring just got worse.

First, it was the player exodus.

Highly touted freshman Royce White left the team at the end of last season while suspended for legal issues. Junior Paul Carter transferred to Illinois-Chicago. Freshman Justin Cobbs is home in California looking for a school closer to home. And junior Trevor Mbakwe is also eyeing a transfer.

Wednesday, the Minnesota coach was on the losing end of a jury verdict that awarded former Oklahoma State assistant Jimmy Williams $1.25 million. Here’s the reason:

The jury found that Smith falsely represented that he had the authority to hire Jimmy Williams when he called Williams in 2007 to talk about an assistant coach position in Minnesota. Williams claimed Smith offered him the job and that after that conversation, Williams resigned from his $200,000-a-year post at Oklahoma State.

Williams reportedly wasn’t hired because he had NCAA violations in his past. Guess the jury thought otherwise. (Minnesota is likely to appeal the verdict.)

The whole thing has become too much for Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Jim Souhan, who places the blame with Smith and athletic director Joel Maturi. Sure, Smith’s teams are a dramatic improvement over former coach Dan Monson – making the NCAA tournament earns you that nod – but in nearly every other regard, Souhan’s fed up.

The hiring of Smith, even if it was really Smith doing the hiring, offered the promise of on-court success without embarrassment, the promise of clean victories and a classy power coach in whom we could believe.

It turns out Smith looks better on paper than in person. His résumé is impeccable. His work in Dinkytown is spotty.

Smith has returned the basketball program to relevance, and to the NCAA tournament. He has not, however, become the ambassador for the program or the university that we assumed he would be. He has not been as visible or as charming as many of us expected.

His program might have already peaked.

Uh oh. If that’s the case, Tubby’s on thin ice. Not a good thing in Minnesota.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

  1. TheProfessor - May 27, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    As one who wanted Tubby Smith out of Kentucky for a variety of reasons, I can say that the player exodus is not new, it is typical of this man’s basketball programs. At UK, 17 of his 37 recruits left UK early, and not to the NBA, and a few others tried to flee, but returned after options were very limited. Tubby Smith’s public persona of a man of great character has been a carefully crafted illusion as well.
    I have been grateful to the University of Minnesota for taking this coach off our hands 3 years ago, and will forever celebrate March 22 at UK Basketball’s independence day.

  2. Paul in KY - May 27, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    I’m a UK fan. Was at first happy when Coach Smith left, then a year later I was sad ;-) Reason I wanted a change was that I thought the program was stagnating & he wasn’t getting the top flight recruits anymore. Coach Gillespie cured me of the ‘stagnating’ part.
    I think he’s a fine coach, but he is a very stubborn man. If you hint you want him to do ‘A’, and he doesn’t want to, he’ll do anything but ‘A’.
    I thought they all loved him up there.

  3. Gopher Nation - May 27, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    Please don’t take Jim Souhan seriously, especially when it comes to his basketball columns. This is the guy who referred to Xavier coach, Chris Mack as Whiny McBaldwimp right before Mack took Xavier to the Sweet 16. Souhan writes to get reactions, not as the voice of Gopher fans in Minnesota.
    The Daily Gopher

  4. charles watkins - May 27, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    why didn,t jim souhan say why those players left
    #1 royce white- stealing merchantdise from the mall and fighting with the security guards #2 paul carter left so he could be close to his sister who has cancer #3 trevor mbakwe waiting to go to trail for asault on a female and #4 justin cobb who was home sick,not getting enough playing time and wnated to be close to home
    as for tubby smith as a coach thought he could hire who he wanted, but if the A.D. say no, you can,t hire this person, the what.
    why didn,t jimmy williams tell tubby about his ncaa violations while at minnesota. i can tell you,re a tubby hater.
    big blue nation

  5. Joe - May 27, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    I know it would panic me if my school had a guy transfer out who’s headed for jail. Addition by subtraction is how I’d describe that.
    And the Souhan columnist sounds like an idiot: Smith hasn’t become the “ambassador” they thought he would be? I don’t even know what that means, given we all know that wins and losses are all that really matter. Is Calhoun a great ambassador for Kentucky as he fails to graduate anybody and chases jobs in the NBA? But he’s an awesome recruiter and wins lots of games, so all else is forgiven.

  6. Tom - May 27, 2010 at 11:55 PM

    I’m sure if Minnesota doesn’t want Tubby he wouldn’t have much trouble getting a top job someone else.
    As far as his tenure at Kentucky, he won a National Championship, five SEC titles, five SEC tournament titles and sent many players to the NBA.
    And unlike the current coach in Lexington, his Kentucky team is actually listed as participating in the Final Four.
    Probably if you look up ‘vacated’ in the dictionary you find a photo of John Calipari.
    I for one, would have loved to see Tubby taken that job in the SEC.
    Cal would be challenged at least once a year who was a better coach than himself.
    Run him out of Minnesota.
    And get someone who will turn you back into an also ran in the Big Ten.

  7. Mabes - May 28, 2010 at 12:54 AM

    Tom, lay off the drugs; Smith was, and still is, a tier 2 coach. Won with Ricks’ players and has never reached a final four with players he has recruited. Like all the other schools he has coached, plays patsies the first 10 – 15 games, get into conference play and falls on his arss. If teams never want to achieve anything more than making the NCAA tournament, hire Smith. Like Knight, his exodus will be fast and swift.

  8. Paul in KY - May 28, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    I would disagree with your ‘never winning with his own players’. He had a wonderful team back in 2004 (won 26 games in a row, undefeated in SEC) & we ran into Dewayne Wade on the day he became a superstar. I do think he was never the same after that loss.

  9. Mark - May 28, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Tubby Smith has never been to a Final Four with players he recruited.
    Thank you Minnesota…enjoy!

  10. Mick - May 28, 2010 at 6:42 PM

    Tubby Smith is a fine upstanding man who I admire greatly. But that being said; he IS NOT a quality basketball coach at the Div. 1 level.
    It appears that once again, the Tub will be thrown out and the bathwater kept. Good luck to all you Minnesota fans.

  11. Paul - May 28, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    Tubby ball……….the players don’t like it, the fans abhor it, and the image of a top Div I basketball coach doesn’t carry any water. Fore example, Rajon Rondo was’t good enough to start for Tubby……..oh yeah, Rondo wanted to use his talent, run, etc., Tubby likes slow down, hold the ball, don’t shoot until you run down the clock. Tubby is the master of beating bad teams 65-57. Lost over 10 games a year the last 4 years at KY. Good luck Minn. you can have him.

  12. fast break - May 28, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    Tubby ball is hated by his players, abhorred by the fans. Tubby ball is beating bad teams 65-57. No fan likes his style of game. Oh yeah, Rajan Rondo wasn’t good enough to start on Tubby’s UK team. Course Tubby’s son, Saul, was a three year starter and the team showed it by losing 10 games a season.

  13. Jamie - Jun 8, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    Mark, its been over 10 years, give it up. That whole, “players he didnt recruit” didnt work then, and its even more ignorant today. Your right, he didnt recruit them, but could your fata$$ of taken them to the final four? Yeah, I didnt think so. Doosh.

  14. Mike in Minneapolis - Jun 24, 2010 at 9:30 PM

    Wow, we heard Kentucky fans were hard to please & didn’t appreciate a good coach when they had one… sure seems to be the case. You Kentucky fans remind me of the characters who still can’t get over George Bush – you’re happy & you’re sad Tubby left… Kentucky continues to have a great basketball program, with or without Tubby. You make it clear you don’t need him, and I guess he doesn’t need you. Get over it & move on – Tubby has.
    And Mabes, Smith’s a tier 2 coach? What are you smokin’? If he isn’t in the top 10 of active NCAA coaches, he’s number 11 or 12 by any knowledgable basketball fan.
    I admit it, after Monson, one of our top high school coaches would have looked good… but Smith was a great hire and is probably as good a fit as anyone for Minnesota. Minnesota has political battles & p.c. crap always just under the surface. We all know college ball is the big time, & it’s all about winning. But unlike some other major programs, at Minnesota winning is somewhat secondary to players actually going to class, good grades & high graduation rates… not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it does put the University at a disadvantage against a growing number of other universities. (I’m not suggesting Kentucky doesn’t push academics, I really don’t know).
    I agree reporters write columns to provoke interest & readership. They’re known to say a lot of dumb things. The reality is Tubby Smith is probably only second to Brett Favre in popularity here in Minnesota. If he decides to quit coaching he has only to run for governor.

  15. Katbluefan - Jul 23, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    I have read a lot of different feelings post here about Tubby, the Coach. He came to UGA and did a great job, went to UK and won a Nat.Champ. in his first year with Pitino’s players. At first he was very well liked at UK and then people realized he was hard headed and unreasonable. UK’s program started down hill and he was asked to make changes and he said NO, but he demanded a lot and UK said NO. So he leaves, good bye. Fans are happy he is gone. He makes BIG promises to Minn but doesn’t deliver just like he didn’t at UK. If Minn is smart they will cut ties before they get in too deep like UK did. Look at his record, he has done all he will do Gopher Fans. Believe It

  16. John - Sep 8, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    hey man, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

  17. Dan - Oct 9, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Lastly a good blog post in relation to the topic, continue the good work also I wish to learn a lot more of your stuff in the long run.

  18. Guy Rudolph - Oct 28, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Souhan’s a joke…

  19. cheap nhl jerseys - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:21 AM

    It’s very good, I like it. Thanks very much.

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