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Was firing Tubby Smith the right thing to do?

  • Blog Post by: Nadine Babu
  • March 26, 2013 - 12:28 AM

Unless you live under a rock, I'm sure you are aware that Tubby Smith was fired today.  The news first leaked this morning on GopherHole.com: http://www.forums.gopherhole.com/boards/showthread.php?45533-Tubby-will-be-fired-this-morning .  One of the posters, Ozzy&Ray, was the first to mention it, and I was able to receive confirmation that Tubby indeed, was out.  Jeff Goodman from CBS reported it a few hours later.  Now that you're all caught up, let's get to the good part: debating whether or not it was the right thing to do. 

 

Let's start by looking at some basic fact on how Tubby Smith has done at the University of Minnesota: 

 

6 Seasons as Minnesota Head Coach

124-81 Overall Record

3 NCAA Tournaments, 2 NIT appearances

5 20-win seasons

Wins over 17 ranked teams

Big Ten Record                  46-62

Home Record                    81-25

Big Ten Records at Minnesota

2007-08                                8-10

2008-09                                9-9

2009-10                                9-9

2010-11                                6-12

2011-12                                6-12

2012-13                                8-10

Postseason Finishes at Minnesota

2007-08                                NIT First Round

2008-09                                NCAA Round of 64

2009-10                                NCAA Round of 64

2010-11                                None

2011-12                                NIT Finalist

2012-13                                NCAA Round of 32

2012-13 Season in Review

Recorded first NCAA Tournament win since 1997*

Beat No. 1 team for first time since 1989

5th 20-win season in last 6 years

*First non-vacated NCAA Tournament win since 1990

Big Ten Finishes

2007-08                                8-10                       6th

2008-09                                9-9                          7th (tie)

2009-10                                9-9                          6th

2010-11                                6-12                       9th

2011-12                                6-12                       9th (tie)

2012-13                                8-10                       7th (tie)

ESPN.com had a poll earlier today asking if the University of Minnesota had made the right decision in firing Tubby.  Earlier this evening there were 16,000 votes, and 79% said no.  I've had a number of people today that aren't Gopher fans say the same thing...why would you fire Tubby after you won your 1st non-vacated NCAA?  However, anyone that follows the program closely looks at more than just an overall record, or one win during March Madness.  That was something that Norwood Teague focused closely on during his press conference yesterday.  He said, "We made this decision based on an evaluation of the overall body of work, and once we did, we decided to move swiftly in order to find the best coach and the best fit for our student athletes and the program in general."

There is a body of work to look at…

Transfers - When you look at the players that have transferred (for one reason or another from the program) you look at a group of very talented players that have flourished at others schools.  Colton Iverson (Colorado State), Justin Cobbs (Cal), Devoe Joseph (Oregon), Royce White (Iowa State), Paul Carter (Illinois-Chicago), and Chip Armelin (Southern Miss).  You can debate why some of them transferred, but the theme here is that they've all done extremely well at their schools (aside from Armelin who is sitting out due to his redshirt transfer year) and have developed in ways we hadn't seen them under Tubby.  Iverson languished for years behind Ralph Sampson III but averaged nearly a double-double this season for Larry Eustachy, leading the Rams to the NCAA Third Round.

When you look at the talent Tubby has developed, he went to 2 out of the 3 NCAA appearances with Dan Monson's players.  Blake Hoffarber, Damian Johnson, and Al Nolen were three of the best players in Tubby's tenure.  I make it a rule to not single out college players as much as possible, but let's just say that Tubby has not sufficiently developed many high potential guys. 

Revnue/Ticket sales - When you have a big time Coach like Tubby Smith, you pay the big bucks because they are suppose to draw in a lot of revenue.  However, as I wrote about in an earlier blog (http://www.startribune.com/sports/gophers/176987511.html), after the spike in ticket sales when Tubby was first hired, they have steadily declined.  Public basketball ticket sales have dropped 20.68% and student season ticket sales are down 37.45% since 2007. What's almost as bothersome as ticket sale dropping, is the fact that Tubby never really seemed to connect with the fans and the student body to get people to games.  You look at Jerry Kill, in a short time, he's already bought the student section lunch and gone around every Friday before games handing out tickets, asking students to come to games, and connecting with fans.  Tubby almost seemed to have that big school mentality that he developed at Kentucky, but Minnesota is much different.  College basketball isn't the only show in town, and if people are spending good money and their time, they need a good product on the floor.  I doubt Tubby ever had to sell a ticket at Kentucky, it would have helped if he had at Minnesota.

Conference play, and particularly, play in February.  In the past 3 years we've gone 5-17 in the Big 10 in February...that's not exactly the kind of results you want when you're competing to get into the NCAA tournament or contend for the Big Ten title.  Tubby also never finished above 6th in the Big 10 in 6 seasons.  These are just a few key elements, not even digging deep into the play calling, recruiting, and subbing patterns.  

We're at a crossroads, either you reward mediocrity (and I'm using that term generously) or you move on.  Norwood Teague made the well thought out decision to move on, and take the basketball program in a new direction.  If you were not able to listen to his press conference yesterday, you can see the full transcript here:  http://www.forums.gopherhole.com/boards/showthread.php?45551-Notes-from-Teague-s-press-conference-regarding-Tubby-Smith-firing&p=684688#post684688

 

 

I was extremely impressed hearing Teague talk about the rationale behind his decision as he framed his long term vision for the program.  He doesn't make excuses, he doesn't apologize.  I have come to the conclusion that he made the correct decision to let Tubby go...the bigger decision he will have to make is who to hire.  The wrong hire can take a decent program into a black hole.  However, I do have faith in Teague and know that he knows basketball and knows how to create a successful program.  He will not hire a Brewster...at least we hope not.  There are some good options out there, and Rob Litt from GopherHole did a great job of putting a top 10 (realistic) list here:  http://www.gopherhole.com/news_article/show/240405?referrer_id=331171

With this being said, I thank Tubby Smith for the 6 seasons he gave to the University of Minnesota.  He ran a clean program with class, he brought national recognition to it, and left it in good shape.  Like Dan Monson, I hope he finds a good fit and look forward to following his career.

Nadine Babu

Twitter:  @NadineBabu www.twitter.com/nadinebabu

Nadine Babu is the CEO and Social Media Strategist at Babu Social Networks and completed her undergraduate degree and MBA at the Carlson School of Management. She manages and writes for GopherHole.com

 

 

 

 

  

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