I never even thought it was a realistic possibility that a Tubby Smith coached Gopher basketball team would fail to even make the NIT…especially after being ranked for the majority of the season as high as #15 in the nation. I guess that’s to be expected when you lose your last 10 out of 11 games. For the diehard fans like myself, I have to be honest, it was brutal watching this team absolutely collapse. For me, this was even rougher than the 2006-07 season when Coach Dan Monson “resigned” midway through the season. At least with that year, you were prepared for a rough season with a horrible start losing all three of the Old Spice Classic tournament games, but this year none of us were prepared for what would happen.
Instead of reflecting on everything that went wrong, I’d rather move forward and weigh out possible options for the Gophers:
Fire Tubby Smith – this seems to be quite a popular solution. Many think that he’s overrated, overpaid, and underachieving. As emotional of a fan as I am, I also know you have to look at the big picture – and a coach’s body of work. Has Tubby Smith met the expectations most have had for him at Minnesota? No. But has any coach really done well here without cheating? Not really. I’m not one of those people that say it’s impossible to win at Minnesota, quite the contrary – I don’t understand why we don’t win more at Minnesota. We are top notch academically, have the advantages of a great city, The Barn is one of the most electric places to play in the nation (well, it used to be when it was loud), and we have a well-known coach.
One of the posters from GopherHole .com actually compiled an extensive list of all of the coaches that were hired when Tubby was hired and how they have fared:
Since this was posted in February, things have obviously changed for the Gophers. Personally, I think Tom Izzo is the best coach of the past decade, and would also argue that he is one of the top 5 coaches in the nation. When you see someone like him struggle this past year, it’s obvious that you do need to look at a coach’s accomplishments, not just one season.
Change up the coaching staff – this is something I am in favor of and I’m not the only one:
When you look at excellent leaders, they surround themselves with people that compliment them and help minimize their weaknesses. Tubby’s weakness is clearly scoring and running an effective offense. I don’t know the in’s and out’s of his staff, and what exactly each role everyone plays is, but it’s clear that offense does not seem to be a specialty of anyone’s.
Recruit better - All of the Kentucky fans had constantly said that Tubby was a lazy recruiter. While I haven’t seen any evidence of that, I do know that we have to either get some better talent or coach them so we get the best out of our players. When you look at our team, Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen were two of our best players and were Dan Monson recruits. Aside from Trevor Mbakwe, Monson’s players like these two, as well as Damian Johnson and Lawrence Westbrook were the players to shine the most under Tubby’s regime.
Develop our big men – I could not have been more excited when Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson signed with the University of Minnesota. After not having a really effective center since Jeff Hagen, I thought they were the answers to our prayers. While they have both had some decent games, I have seen very little development with the two of them. Iverson seems to have issues scoring points, and Sampson seems to be blessed with talent but doesn’t have the fire in his belly to really use it. One of my seatmates actually joked that when rebounding, his mentality is “Trevor will get it.” I honestly think if we can get the most out of these two, and Mbakwe returns next year, we can be absolutely unstoppable in the paint.
These are just a few of my ideas. Agree or disagree, but I think the one thing we all agree on is that some changes need to be made. I thought that not winning an NCAA game in Tubby’s tenure was underachieving…but not even making the NIT? That is just not acceptable.