Gophers hire instant credibility with Tubby Smith

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 23, 2007 - 12:06 AM

The hiring of Kentucky's Tubby Smith as the next Gophers men's basketball coach gives a significant boost to Minnesota's reputation after years of decline.

Tubby Smith

Tubby Smith enters the University of Minnesota's Bierman Field Athletic Complex Thursday evening. In the blue shirt is Tom Wistrcill, associate athletics director for external relations.

Photo: Renée Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Joel Maturi's goal when he began looking for a new men's basketball coach was to give the program "a shot in the arm." The University of Minnesota athletic director certainly accomplished that Thursday.

Instead of landing a hot, young coach, Maturi hired Tubby Smith, the current -- but embattled -- coach at traditional college basketball powerhouse Kentucky. Smith replaces Jim Molinari, the interim coach since Dan Monson was fired Nov. 30.

Smith, who arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday afternoon, will be formally introduced today at noon at Williams Arena. He has agreed to a seven-year contract worth $1.7 million per season, plus incentives for both basketball and academic performance.

Smith won the 1998 national title and went to 10 straight NCAA tournaments at Kentucky, but was under pressure after failing to get to the Sweet 16 the past two seasons.

He left Kentucky with four years left on his contract.

"You always want to be wanted," Smith told the Lexington Herald Leader. "You know they have a need."

It's a move that brings instant credibility to a Gophers program that has been in a downward spiral for much of the past decade.

After reaching the 1997 Final Four, the program was gutted by an academic fraud scandal and virtually dropped off the map in the Twin Cities sports scene.

While Monson improved the off-court image of the program, he didn't have enough on-the-court success and accepted a buyout package seven games into this season.

In 16 years as a head coach, Smith has a record of 387-145 (.727) and entered this season with the 10th highest winning percentage among active coaches. Only Arizona coach Lute Olson has a longer streak of consecutive 20-win seasons than Smith's 14.

A strong defensive coach and motivator, Smith led the Wildcats to four Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA tournament, five Southeastern Conference titles and five SEC tournament titles in 10 years at Kentucky. Before arriving in Lexington, Smith -- who has never had a losing season -- reached the Sweet 16 at both Tulsa and Georgia.

"As soon as you say Tubby Smith ... it's a big name," Gophers guard Lawrence McKenzie said. "He brings a lot of respect and experience to our program.

"He definitely brings a lot of experience. He knows what it takes to win. He's won a national championship. We need that type of aura in our program."

Why Minnesota?

Why would Smith leave one of college basketball's blue bloods for a school that went 9-22 this season and finished ninth or worse in the Big Ten in three of the past four seasons?

For all of the success Smith had at Kentucky -- he reached 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments and never lost in the first round -- he was also routinely criticized.

His national title was dismissed by some because the team consisted of players recruited by former coach Rick Pitino. Smith was criticized for not returning to the Final Four since. He was panned for not landing the elite of the elite high school players.

"As much as he's done at Kentucky, it was never enough and it probably wouldn't be for anybody," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who serves with Smith on the board of directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. "It's no fun to live that way. Did it totally surprise me that he'd leave there? No.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close
Tubby Smith