Jay Bilas won the battle of pomposity among the national college observers after U of M athletic director Norwood Teague fired men's basketball coach Tubby Smith on Monday. Bilas went to Twitter to pronounce: "I'm sick at the firing of Tubby Smith. This is the business we've chosen, but that doesn't make it right. Not a better man in the game.''
The business Bilas has chosen is television -- it is neither administrating a major college athletic program, nor coaching basketball.
Bilas can't be blamed for taking himself way too seriously. He grew up in Rolling Hills, Calif., one of the wealthiest communities in the country. And he went to Duke, where I'm told "introduction to pomposity'' is a three-credit course required for freshmen.
Mark Story, a sports columnist for Lexington [Ky.] Herald-Leader, used Bilas' Tweet as the punchline for his ode to Smith. The online headline for the commentary read: "Tubby Smith is too decent, too 'normal' for what major college hoops coaching is now.''
The headline came from the second paragraph which read: "Of all the major basketball coaches I've covered, Smith is the most 'normal,' the personality that seemed the most-balanced. In a profession now rife with cut-throat workaholics and deal-cutting confidence men, I wonder whether that normalcy has become an insurmountable weakness.''
Story also informed us that the Minnesota program Smith took over in 2007 "had never really recovered from the academic fraud scandal that took down then-coach Clem Haskins in 1999.''
So, eight seasons later, it still was Clem's fault? Even former AD Joel Maturi and Dan Monson had mostly given up on that excuse, before Maturi finally got around to firing the failed coach seven games into the 2006-07 season.
The Tubby defenders point out that he had five 20-win seasons in six years. That's meaningless in these days of bloated non-conference schedules filled with cupcake opponents coming into the home arena of big-conference teams; in this case, coming into Williams Arena.
The Big Ten record is the only guage that should matter. Smith was 46-62 in the conference regular season and never was above .500. His finishes were 6th, T-7th, 6th, 9th, T-9th and T-7th.
The NCAA Selection Committee hands out invitations to Big Ten teams for the tournament the way grandparents hand out chocolate bunnies on Easter. Smith received three of these gifts at Minnesota -- and had one tournament victory, last Friday against a UCLA bunch that played as if dedicated to getting its coach, Ben Howland, fired.
If that was the goal, Shabazz the Bow-Wow and his teammates succeeded.
Tubby Smith had a Minnesota resume that screamed, "Fire me,'' and if it wasn't for that long-ago national title at Kentucky, maybe readers and viewers wouldn't have been subjected to all of this phony outrage from the national media.
As for being so throughly "normal'' as compared to his colleagues, is Tubby supposed to be congratulated for working less hard and being less obsessed with winning than competitors? If you weren't supposed to be a workaholic, the job wouldn't pay $2 million a year.
And this idea that Tubby was such a gentle soul, that we should be "sick'' over his firing ...
Talk to some of his players. All that talk about the "Tubby stare'' being his main weapon in relaying his unhappiness to his student athletes was nonsense.
Behind a closed locker room door, in his office or at practice ... Tubby would air out the lads with a foul-mouthed tirade as quickly as the next guy.
Smith's a coach, like the rest of 'em, with his own act. If you watched the response of his most-talented Minnesota team for the last two months of this season, It was clear the act was stale and ineffective. Tubby had to go, hopefully to be replaced by a coach less "normal'' and more obsessed with winning.
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