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Is Tubby Smith a Minnesota lifer?

Apr 20, 2012, 9:34 PM EDT

Ralph Sampson, Tubby Smith AP

It seems like every time a BCS-level job comes open, Tubby Smith’s name is mentioned prominently as a possible hire. His name has been dropped everywhere from Oregon (prior to Dana Altman’s hiring) to LSU (where Johnny Jones took over for the recently departed Trent Johnson) and everywhere in-between. It begs the question: is Tubby Smith really going anywhere?

Smith took the Kentucky Wildcats to the 1998 national title, but stumbled to a pair of unacceptable (by Lexington standards) 9-7 SEC campaigns before departing for Minnesota in 2007. Smith left of his own volition, but many felt he was fleeing town one step ahead of the metaphorical posse.

The not-so-subtle implication is that nobody in his right mind — least of all a coach who had been to the mountain top with Kentucky — would want to stay in Minneapolis for the long haul. Tubby Smith himself has never given any indication that he’s restless nor lent any credence to the rumor mill that surrounds him on a near-constant basis during the offseason.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if other programs are using Tubby to generate buzz,” says Jonathan Foster of the Minnesota-centric blog From the Barn. “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.”

Foster’s take has merit. As often as Smith’s name is brought up in coaching searches, he never seems to physically turn up in any of the towns he’s supposedly itching to burn rubber to. He never exhibits the merest public twitch of dislike for his home of the past five-plus years, either. In fact, he seems to genuinely enjoy the Twin Cities.

“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,” Foster said. “He has stuck around for the same reasons that many people in Minneapolis have. He just happens to coach a basketball team.”

Tubby Smith is 60 years old. He may very well intend to finish out his career at Minnesota. He may not. But it may be time to put the kibosh on the idea that he’s dying to escape his present gig. Smith would obviously take a hard look at a big-money offer from a team in position to contend right away, should such a thing come his way in the next five years. Absent an encounter with that near-mythological beast, don’t be surprised to see Tubby Smith in maroon and gold for keeps.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He likes to crack wise and talk about college basketball @stfhoops on Twitter.

  1. kingghidora - Apr 22, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    I think you spelled “loser” wrong. It’s not “lifer”. It’s “loser”. Smith is content to cash a paycheck where he doesn’t actually have to produce anything. You insinuate that Smith’s tenure at UK ended because of two seasons. That’s not true. His entire tenure was pockmarked with embarrassing failures to control his team and failures to even be ranked in the top 25 for almost entire seasons. That is certainly below UK standards and is proof that he couldn’t win even under the best circumstances. If you want an example of how that’s true all you need to do is look at the success of a good coach combined with the UK traditions. Smith inherited a team on the verge of a dynasty and he couldn’t come close to keeping it going. Calipari inherited a team on the verge of perpetual mid-major status and turned it into a near dynasty again instantly. And no matter how you might want to argue otherwise, Smith won with players trained by Pitino. Once they were gone the turmoil started first centered around his son and then by his inability to get players to get along much less play together. He had Rajon Rondo playing with another very good guard in Patrick Sparks and they still managed to lose 13 games and be unranked after the first week of January. That is NOT good. In fact it’s terrible. There were other talented players on that team also in Randolph Morris and Joe Crawford. There’s no excuse on earth for that team losing 13 games. The fact was that his players hated each other and would not play as a team. What a difference a coach makes. Look at how UK played as a team this past season. Now that’s coaching.

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