Williams Arena, as seen in October 2009 for the Gophers’ version of Midnight Madness, is a stadium filled with tradition, but men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith says he believes it’s a hard sell to recruits without a practice arena.
Bruce Bisping, Dml - Star Tribune
Hartman: Tubby says future is bright for Gophers
- Article by: SID HARTMAN
- Star Tribune
- January 14, 2012 - 9:33 PM
And while some in the media have been critical of the job Smith has done, he believes he will sign a new contract to stay with the program for a number of years.
"It'll get done," Smith said. "I've got two more years on my contract now, and I think it's important that we get something done, and we will in the future."
Smith was promised a two-year extension and negotiations continue. He believes the new contract will make it clear that he will finish his coaching career at Minnesota, despite rumors to the contrary.
Smith was asked if the Gophers job was what he thought it would be when he decided to move here from Kentucky in 2007.
"I didn't really know. I knew some things about the program, but you never know a program until you get inside and you find out what's going on internally," Smith said. "Certainly we have a good, broad-based athletic program that covers a lot of different constituents."
While Williams Arena is a very popular venue with the public, Smith said he doesn't have a new arena to sell to recruits, unlike a lot of other schools.
"Our market is different than any other market than I've ever been exposed to, as far as all the pro teams that we have here in the city of Minneapolis, that takes a lot," Smith said.
"I'm just impressed that we get the support that we do here. This is a saturated market as far as athletics is concerned, but again, if you have a good product and you're doing the right things, which we are -- we're graduating players and our kids play hard, for the most part, and we've been able to keep guys in the program, other than those that did things that really cost them an opportunity here, so we feel like we're doing the right things.
"I think we have good support, and if you're going to compete at the Division I level at the Big Ten [level], you have to fund it at that level. I think we are, for the most part."Needs practice facility
Until the basketball program gets a new practice facility, Smith believes he is at a disadvantage recruiting.
"Oh yeah, it's absolutely a big part of the recruiting process, and we need to continue to grow the program so we can compete against the best," Smith said. "If you want to be the best, the best do things that ordinary people or the mediocre teams or the average school won't do. That means it has to be funded at that level, at the championship level.
"There's a reason why Alabama and LSU play for the national championship [in football]. They probably have the biggest budget in America, you understand what I mean? That's the same way with basketball. There's a reason why the Yankees are always one of the best teams in baseball."
On recruiting, Smith said: "It's never easy recruiting anywhere. The competition is stiff and the kids have got to see an opportunity to play, opportunity to get a quality education. Obviously, we have a great atmosphere here on campus, and also we have the city, the atmosphere in the city of Minneapolis and in the Twin Cities. It's a great place to live and get a job and work and raise your family ... but in the end, it's about the relationships that you build with maybe your teammates, your classmates, your community -- whether it's in church, at the YMCA, the barbershop, these guys have got to learn to be a part of the fabric. That's why we reach out. We do a lot of outreach programs with our team in the community, whether it's to feed the hungry, or going to the children's hospital."Moving on without Mbakwe
Smith talked about how much it hurt the team's potential when All-Big Ten forward Trevor Mbakwe was lost for the season because of a torn knee ligament.
"It's tough to overcome that, but I'm really impressed because we have great resiliency in this group of kids," Smith said. "They have embraced the challenge to be better, without maybe the best player, one of the top players in the country, in Trevor Mbakwe. We certainly miss him, but you have to move forward and move ahead and we think that we have the right combination of players that can do that. They have shown that we've been able to compensate for his loss and step up."
With only one other senior on the team in Ralph Sampson III, Smith looks for a team that can contend next year.
"We have two good recruits in Wally Ellenson, the kid from Rice Lake [Wis.], and we got Charles Buggs, the kid from Texas, and he's a 6-8 player that we think is going to help us. Joe Coleman is a freshman, he'll be a sophomore next year. Andre Hollins, he's a great kid, if he hadn't hurt his ankle and had that hip problem, but he's still doing a great job for us. I think the future is very bright and I'm very excited about the future, as well."
• Terry Ryan is not done adding players to the Twins roster: “No, we’re not through yet, we still have some people out there we’re interested in,” the general manager said. “It’s a slow-moving market this year, for some reason. But we’ve got some interest still in a couple guys out there. There are quite a few guys left on the board, and that’s also unusual. When you start rolling through January and some of the big shots are still out there, too, [that’s] somewhat surprising. But there is some quality still left in that free-agent market, and we’ll continue to monitor that.”
• Tyus Jones, the great Apple Valley point guard, scored 39 points in a loss Friday night to Eastview and the word is that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was viewing the sophomore guard for a third time. Meanwhile, Eastview senior forward Joey King, who scored 37 points in the Lightning’s victory over Apple Valley, is going to attend Drake.
• Gophers assistant men’s hockey coach Mike Guentzel has three sons playing hockey: Ryan is in Germany after completing his college career at Notre Dame, Gabe is a junior for the Colorado College team that will face the Gophers next week and Jake is a junior at Hill-Murray.
• Vanderbilt football coaches were at Target Center last week when Andre McDonald played basketball with Hopkins. McDonald, considered a better football player than basketball, originally committed to the Gophers, then switched to Vanderbilt. But now that Chris Beatty, the Vandy assistant who recruited him, left for Illinois, McDonald has opened up his choice of schools again and just visited Minnesota. He told GopherIllustrated.com he is down to Minnesota, Illinois and Vanderbilt as his finalists.
• Jared Allen is paying the way to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii for Jeff Anderson of the Vikings PR staff.
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