VCU coach Smart brings Gophers ties to Bahamas

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2012 - 10:08 PM
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Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart

Photo: John Bazemore, Associated Press

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PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS - Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart's relationship with current Gophers AD Norwood Teague -- who hired Smart at VCU -- has been well documented, but that isn't the only Minnesota connection for the Rams' leader. Smart also worked with Gophers assistant Ron Jirsa when both were at University of Dayton, and they remain close.

"As much as anyone I've worked with, he's been a mentor for me," Smart said Wednesday in the lead-up to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which starts Thursday. "A lot of the things that we still do today in terms of our bigger guys and things that I do just in terms of coaching came from him.

"I ran into those guys this morning and I don't like to play against friends," he said. "Then I [realized] if we both win then we would play, and I guess that would be good."

The Gophers could meet VCU on Friday if both teams win their matchups -- the Gophers face Duke, while VCU plays Memphis in the opening round -- or if both lose.

Experienced teams

Duke is well known for the experience it brings to the table with five seniors on the roster, including two starters. But coach Mike Krzyzewski said he's excited to see how his team will fair against another seasoned squad.

"With Minnesota, we play a veteran team," Kryzyzewski said, "obviously with one of the best coaches in college basketball, and that's good for our team right now. You want to learn from winning and hopefully we can beat them, but having that opportunity -- it's very much like a top level ACC game for us on November 22."

The Blue Devils should have guard Seth Curry -- who has been struggling with pain in his shin -- available on Thursday, but he is not a guarantee for the entire tournament, Krzyzewski said. Quinn Cook -- who started for the first time in Duke's most recent win over Florida Gulf Coast -- is expected to be starting at point guard once more.

Family priorities

Memphis coach Josh Pastner jokingly said on Wednesday that he refused to bring his wife to the Bahamas, as well as on any of the team's road trips in the immediate future, because the team has struggled when she's been on the road recently.

"The times she's traveled, we're like 1-6," he said. "Until we start winning more with her on the road, she's banned from road trips."

And Pastner's wife, Kerri, has been the victim of bad timing several other times. The pair -- who married two years ago -- have never had a honeymoon because Pastner had to see recruits immediately after their wedding.

While in the delivery room during his first daughter's birth, Pastner was on the phone with Adonis Thomas, now a sophomore. For his second daughter's birth this year, Pastner stranded his wife and new baby at the hospital (he had the only car) because he was courting recruit Kuran Iverson (who signed this month).

"She was so mad at me because she wanted to get out of the hospital," Pastner said grinning. "The bottom line is Kuran Iverson could help us win the championship more than my second daughter, so I had them understand that."

Etc.

• Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said it's too early to think about whether a potential matchup between the Cardinal and the Gophers would go differently than last year, when the Cardinal drubbed the Gophers 75-51 in the NIT final.

"That was a great game of course last year and we were very fortunate to have won," he said. "But this year we haven't been studying Minnesota so much, we've just been looking at (first-round opponent) Missouri."

• The Gophers were able to practice in Imperial Arena for the first time on Wednesday morning after getting in around midnight Tuesday. "It's a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be and a lot darker," Rodney Williams said, "but it's a pretty nice court and I think the atmosphere will be real fun to be in."

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