Maturi confident practice facility can get done

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 17, 2011 - 12:49 AM

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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After a recent loss to Ohio State, Tubby Smith reiterated his desire for a new practice facility, a structure most Big Ten men's basketball programs either enjoy currently or will soon.

Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said Wednesday that the university is still committed to building the facility. He said he believes the initial plan of a $20 million complex and a completion date of fall of 2013 are feasible, although fundraising hurdles remain.

"It's still realistic if we can raise the money," he said.

Maturi said he met with Smith and women's coach Pam Borton on Tuesday to discuss the design of the facility.

But Maturi also said the economic crunch and the resources some of the school's major boosters recently committed to TCF Bank Stadium have made the fundraising efforts for a practice facility more difficult.

"I think it makes it a little bit of a challenge," he said. "And I do believe we have enough passionate basketball fans, I think we have enough people who have the ability to assist us in developing something that everybody else except Northwestern has in the Big Ten. I know people don't like to hear that, but it's a reality. We need to do something. I'm optimistic and hopeful we can get it done."

Let the rumors begin

It's that time of year. Rumors will soon suggest Smith is headed to another program at the end of the season.

Smith, who's current seven-year contract expires in 2014, hasn't signed an extension that's been discussed for nearly a year. That will only feed the innuendo.

Maturi said the contract negotiations are ongoing. But he said he's confident the university has shown Smith it's committed to keeping him in town.

"I want him to be our coach, and I hear all the rumors that he may leave as well," he said. "I can't control that. I think Tubby knows that we're working hard to do what is necessary to keep him here."

Free-throw challenge

Smith said he has changed some aspects of the way his team practices free throws.

"We've been doing some things differently in practice to put a little more pressure on them where they have to run or do push-ups when they're missing free throws," he said. "It's making them concentrate a little bit better."

Trevor Mbakwe made 10 of 11 attempts in a victory over Iowa on Sunday.

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