There was enough animosity aimed at Tubby Smith during the Gophers' 3-8 cave-in in the midst of the Big Ten schedule that there were actually some mixed emotions expressed by selected hoops fans on Tuesday night:
There was giddiness over the 77-73 upset of No. 1 Indiana on a hellacious night at Williams Arena. There was also the sentiment that this hurt because it guaranteed the return of Smith for the 2013-14 season.
The civilians in these parts who follow big-time sports are an angrier crowd than ever before, as Joe Mauer discovered in 2011, and Christian Ponder discovered in 2012, and now Smith has discovered in 2013.
The Tubby-must-go sentiment gained huge momentum during the slide --and reached its zenith as the Gophers sleep-walked through second-half blowouts at Iowa and at Ohio State.
People aren't easy to dissuade from an opinion once it has taken hold. Again, Mauer is Example A of this, for his productive and durable season of 2012 did not deter many criticis from continuing the assault on him that started a year earlier.
Tubby has time to rehab his image with the masses in the final weeks of his sixth Minnesota season, but only if these Gophers win a couple of NCAA games and reach the Sweet Sixteen.
For now, this isn't an isolated question: "It was a great win, but does it hurt long-term because Tubby stays?''
There is a theory that the Minnesota juniors -- Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis _ have not yet made a verbal commitment to one of the elite programs because they are waiting en masse to find out what the coaching situation will be with the Gophers.
The basis of this theory is that if the Gophers were able to bring in Shaka Smart or another dynamic, younger coach, the trio might stay home and try to do some big things together. Throw in Alex Illikainen, the 6-9 sophomore from Grand Rapids, and that could be the best homegrown roster since ... ever
The other half of the theory is that Tubby is going to have to work relentlessly to land even one of three juniors.
So, the Indiana win was fantastic in the short-term, but not so great for the long-term?
I don't buy it.
I don't see Shaka Smart as the be-all, end-all of potential coaches. And I don't see Smart or any other coach with big options coming here as long as a practice facility remains merely a gleam in the eye of AD Woody Teague.
Tubby will win a tournament game or two with this club. That will get him at least one of the juniors. And Woody will have announced a ground-breaking date for a practice facility by this time next year.
If Tubby does OK next winter, he stays, and if not, there will be a young coach with promise to hire.
As for storming the elevated floor: This was justified -- as opposed to the embarrassment all right-thinking Minnesotans should have felt when some of our maroon-and-gold nitwits rushed the football field after a victory over a mediocre Iowa team in 2011.
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