This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

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Coaching search notes: A few outside thoughts

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: March 26, 2013 - 10:21 PM

The basketball has stopped for the Gophers, but for me, the frantic pace of the season continues.

A few notes from today:

  • There is news about a potential contract extension for Shaka Smart at VCU. This would make many Gophers fans upset, even if it's unclear how much of a shot Minnesota has at him regardless. VCU and Smart are supposedly working through the details and it could be done by the end of this week, USA Today said. Pete Thamel from Sports Illustrated originally reported the story. Do suitors (ahem, Minnesota) take this as a time to up their offers? Perhaps. Notice the line in the USA Today article that says both Minnesota and UCLA have already reached out -- not a surprise, but worth noting.

I spoke with several sources for that story, and I have a few interesting tidbits left over from a couple of them (Check out Jeff Borzello’s response below on whether a big new hire could make the 2014 “Big Three” recruits reconsider):

Jeff Eisenberg (Yahoo):

On one of the pros of Minnesota job: “I think Norwood Teague is respected enough among coaches both for what he did at VCU for hiring Shaka Smart and just for kind of the relationship he has with coaches and with people in the basketball industry, that I think he’s viewed as an athletic director that you would want to work for.”

On where the Minnesota job stands among the other two jobs: “I think it’s a rung below UCLA. And I don’t even think that’s a knock on Minnesota, I just think that UCLA is a blueblood program, a job that’s probably one of the 10 or 15 best in the country and I don’t think Minnesota is quite at that level. I think Minnesota is more on the level with USC, although I might put Minnesota on a rung about USC just based on their tradition and their recent success. But there’s a lot of attractive aspects of the USC job too, it’s a nearly brand new arena. You have a built in recruiting hotbed in Los Angeles, there’s not a ton of pressure to win.

Speaking of pressure. Is that a turn-off at Minnesota considering the other flaws involved (old arena, no practice facility, lacking a winning tradition): “If a USC coach did what Tubby did at Minnesota and made the NCAA tournament three out of six years, he would certainly be employed, which is a positive from a coach’s perspective about USC … I definitely think that a coach would view it in that manner and would be curious as to why Minnesota would fire someone that has made the NCAA tournament 50 percent of the time at a school that historically hasn’t done a whole lot better than that. I think that the perception of expectations being higher than what you can achieve there would be a concern for a coach.”

On the Big Ten as a draw: “I think on the one hand, I think for a coach to be able to test himself in probably the best conference in the country right now and going forward certainly one of the best conferences in the country, that’s got to be a draw.

“On the other hand, that’s a tough assignment. You want to finish in the top half of that conference right now – and it only gets tougher when Maryland comes in – but that means that you’re beating out at least one of those six or seven schools that I would list as better jobs than Minnesota and you’re also beating out everyone who I said would be a rung below. So it’s a tough assignment just to finish in the top half of the Big Ten and I think we’ve seen that with Tubby’s tenure and their difficulty with doing so.”


Jeff Borzello (CBS Sports):

On his impressions of the Minnesota job: “It’s a good job, it’s not a great job. It’s a good job because there’s no local rival to fight over players for. They’re the main thing in the state in the sense of college sports.

“At the same time, I think there’s a ceiling for it. They’re not going to beat out Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana on a regular basis either for players or in the Big Ten standings. They’re not going to become a top-3 finisher on a yearly basis with those schools and with Michigan.

“Those are national programs. Minnesota is a good job, but it doesn’t have the same reputation and history as those programs do.”

On Minnesota in comparison to UCLA: “I think a coach would rather coach at UCLA because it’s in California, you’ve got all the LA high schools and the California AAU teams, so I think it’s more of a natural type of recruiting base. And there’s better history there and there’s a ton of support in the area. So if a coach gets Minnesota – UCLA offers, I think he’d be more likely to pick UCLA.”

On recruiting at Minnesota: “When was the last time Minnesota had an elite player? They haven’t and I think whoever comes in has got to be of the mindset that we’ve got to get these guys. No matter what it takes, they have to get the Tyus Jones, they have to get the Rashad Vaughns, they have to get those guys to stay at home. When those guys are looking elsewhere, let them know their best option is at home.

“…There shouldn’t be problems with recruiting. A coach should be in there trying to get players. I don’t think Tubby made enough effort to get those guys.”

On whether a splash hire could make the “Big Three” 2014 recruits – Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis – second-guess leaving Minnesota: “I think it would make them take a harder look, yes – depending on who it is – if they thought Minnesota was maybe stagnant before, it could now be an exciting, renewed option.”

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