Sid Hartman: Tubby Smith says he's not going anywhere

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 6, 2011 - 7:33 PM

The Gophers coach refutes rumors of his leaving and is confident his team will finish the season strong.

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Gophers coach Tubby Smith.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Tubby Smith hasn't lost confidence in his basketball team even though the Gophers have a 1-8 record in the past nine games and are 6-11 in the Big Ten and 17-12 overall.

Smith is confident the Gophers will beat Penn State on Sunday, do well in the Big Ten tournament next week in Indianapolis and then get a berth in the NCAA tournament.

And Smith rejected the ESPN rumor that Georgia Tech was going to buy out coach Paul Hewitt's contract and hire Smith by saying: "Why would I be interested in that job? I'm not going anywhere. My wife likes it here, I like it here, and I'm going to finish my career here."

A year ago the Gophers were slumping at the end of the season, going 4-4 in their final eight Big Ten conference games, but Smith points out they went to the finals of the Big Ten tournament before losing to Ohio State, which helped them secure a berth in the NCAA tournament.

And Smith is confident about the future of his team. The Gophers will lose only two seniors after this season, Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen. They have two good redshirt freshmen in Elliott Eliason and Oto Osenieks. Maurice Walker will return after knee surgery this past season, and so will three freshmen who got good experience this year -- Maverick Anhanmisi, Chip Armelin and Austin Hollins. And a good recruiting class is expected with the already signed Joe Coleman and Andre Hollins and two scholarships still available.

The one player who might not be back is Ralph Sampson III, whose father, Ralph Sampson, is reported to be talking about his son making himself available to the NBA even though most scouts don't believe the 6-11 center is close to having developed enough to play in the big time.

Smith is not concerned about Trevor Mbakwe turning pro because the former Henry Sibley star agrees with his coach that he's not ready. The fact that he was idle last year didn't allow him to reach his top form this season. But next year will be a different story after playing a full season this year.

Smith added that had Mbakwe made some of the easy baskets this year that he would normally make, the Gophers would not have lost to Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern when they had good leads. Mbakwe will make those shots next season.

Speaking about this team, Smith said the Gophers lost some of their toughness when Devoe Joseph transferred to Oregon and Nolen was lost to a broken foot. Smith said he talked to Nolen's doctor the other day and the report he got is that there is a slight possibility that the outstanding point guard could be available for the Big Ten tournament next week.

And looking back to his first year of recruiting, Smith said the one regret he had was that he didn't try to get potential All-America guard Jordan Taylor of Wisconsin to change his commitment and come to Minnesota.

With Taylor in the Gophers lineup, rest assured the Badgers would be a lot less potent and the Gophers would have won a lot more games.

"We had Nolen coming in at the time, and I didn't want to recruit another guard," Smith said about the Taylor situation.

Insurance meetings

This past week both the Vikings and representatives of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission held meetings with their insurance companies. The Vikings are looking for their share of millions of dollars of insurance pay, and the word is that negotiations are going well. The insurance company that will have to pay for the roof is reportedly not agreeing to pay for the entire roof minus the deductible. Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Commission, which runs the Metrodome, said that rumor is false.

Lester said the plan is for work to start April 1 on replacing the roof and for the Dome to be ready for the Vikings exhibition games in August.

You wonder where the money will come from to fix the roof if the insurances company doesn't come through and pay the entire $25 million for the new roof.

Jottings

Brian Robison, the Vikings defensive end who just signed a five-year, $14 million contract after being a free agent, has to be somewhat surprised that he got the offer.

Robison, a fourth-round draft choice in 2007, could never understand why he didn't get more playing time even though he performed as well as other Vikings linemen who got more playing time. But now with defensive end Ray Edwards and nose tackle Pat Williams likely not to return, Robison will see a lot of playing time, primarily at end.

Kevin Love continues to reach the Timberwolves record book, with the latest entries coming last Sunday when he went 18-for-23 on free throws against Golden State, matching Tony Campbell's 1990 mark for most attempts and Christian Laettner's 1993 mark for most makes.

The Minnesota Football Coaches Clinic will be held at the Doubletree Hotel and the University of Minnesota on March 31-April 2.

Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is keeping busy. Kill appeared at a Nike football coaching clinic in Mount Pleasant, Mich., thi weekend.

The Fargo-Moorhead area, which has a population of fewer than 200,000, has produced no fewer than six players currently in NHL systems, including Matt and Mark Cullen, Jason Blake, Ryan Kraft, Brian Lee and Paul Gaustad. Mark Cullen, who is playing with Rochester in the AHL, played with Lee in the Ottawa system last year. Another Cullen brother, Joe, is now playing in Italy. He played in the AHL for four seasons.

Recent draft picks from the Fargo-Moorhead area include John Lee, a Florida Panthers fifth-round choice in 2007 and Chris Vande Velde, an Edmonton fourth-round pick in 2005.

Former Gophers player Jordan Schroeder had two goals and six assists in his past nine games for Manitoba of the AHL, giving him nine goals and 14 assists in 44 games so far this season. ... Former Gopher Ryan Flynn has four goals and five assists in 47 games for Milwaukee of the AHL. ... Former Gophers defenseman R.J. Anderson has seven goals and 24 assists in 49 games for Elmira of the ECHL. ... Former White Bear Lake product Eric Hartzell was named a Walter Brown semifinalist by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston, which honors the top American-born Division I hockey player in New England. Hartzell is playing goalie for Quinnipiac and has a 10-6-6 record with a .923 save percentage.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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