Walker broke his foot in March, but is back to practicing with the team.

Walker broke his foot in March, but is back to practicing with the team.

Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith said Tuesday that his salary ($1.75 million a year in base salary and supplemental compensation) will remain the same through his three-year contract extension. It’s not yet known what his new buyout will be; under the previous deal, Minnesota was required to pay Smith $1.5 million if the school fired him without violation of the contract.


Without a raise on the table, Smith said his main concern in completing the new deal was for recruiting purposes.
“It’s just one less thing people can use against you, you know, that’s what happens in recruiting,” Smith said. “I can genuinely say, ‘Look fellas, I’m here;’ for kids we sign this year or next year, I’ll be here. Nobody knows whether you’ll be here for certain or not because a lot of things can happen. But you expect to be here because you have a contract extension.
“We’ve had our issues as far as winning or losing, so we haven’t reached our potential, we just haven’t done it. So all those things come into play. We just need to make sure we have all the weapons we need, and an extension is just another weapon we have in our arsenal to recruit.”
Smith declined to get into the specifics of what held up the extension – which has been anticipated for more than a year now – but noted that the administration changes have played a role. New athletic director Norwood Teague had been in his role just a month when the extension was announced Monday, showing a clear stamp of commitment, for now, on the part of the new regime.
“We hoped we would’ve got it done sooner, we hoped it would get it done before now, but it wasn’t,” Smith said. “And I think it does help that Norwood’s here and there’s just a rejuvenation of a lot of things … Joel [Maturi] did a very good job but there have been a lot of things that have transpired over the last few years.”
Other notes:
  • Smith said that Mo Walker broke a bone in his left foot in the last practice of the season last year. In the day before the NIT final against Stanford, the Gophers were doing a walk-through, when Walker took a soft lob near the basket and came down hard on Elliott Eliason’s foot. Walker had surgery on the foot in May, and has rehabbed completely, Smith says. Walker’s right knee – on which he had reconstructive surgery after the 2010-11 season – is also completely healed, and the big man is running and playing to full contact, Smith says.
  • “He’s going to be a real key for us because he’s very talented,” Smith said of Walker. “If we can just get him healthy, now we do have the size and the bulk that we have. We like the way Elliott plays. We like the way Andre Ingram is healthy. We’ve got Oto back. So we’ve got some size and some beef that we planned to have. And that group did exactly what we thought they could do at the end of the season, starting three freshman, a sophomore and a junior. They were a pretty good starting five that did some good things down the stretch in about 6 of our last 8 games. So it wasn’t a bad finish. We would’ve loved to win the NIT and we wish we could have been healthier during the regular season, but we weren’t.
  • Trevor Mbakwe has not practiced yet, but is on schedule according to his doctors and trainers, Smith said. “They say he’s doing well and he’s right where they want him to be,” Smith said. “What does that mean? I don’t know what that means. Can he play? No, he can’t play yet. No one really knows, it’s just a matter of how much he’s improving.” On whether Mbakwe would be ready to start at the beginning of the season, Smith said: “I would think so.”
  • Nonetheless, Smith emphasized that the team is not relying on the rebounding veteran for their success. “Without Trevor we’re going to be a pretty good team,” Smith said. “Obviously, Trevor has been with us for two years, and we had one of the worst seasons we’ve ever had his junior. Even though he led the league in rebounding, it was still a tough, tough year for us as a team. We didn’t go anywhere, we had 17 wins. With this group, that’s what I mean. He’ll certainly add some depth to our program but we weren’t expecting Trevor back anyway, he was a senior last year. So we recruited as if he wasn’t going to be here this year to start with. So we feel comfortable and excited about the guys we have returning.”
  • Smith said he and Teague have continued to discuss the possibility of a practice facility, something that has long been on the wishlist of the Gophers coach. Right now, it’s only conversation. “He knows that’s something we need,” Smith said. “And (they) did it at VCU so he understands how important that is. (We just talked about) what we need to do and what I can do and how we can work together to get it done.”

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