The person who originally sought and hired Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith and pushed for his extension is on his way out of power. But the fifth-year coach said at athletic director Joel Maturi's retirement news conference Thursday that he is not concerned about his future with Minnesota.
"Oh, I'll be back here," Smith said. "[University President] Dr. [Eric] Kaler and I have visited some early in the year. Certainly this is the right place for me and my family. ... We've had our share of missteps and disappointments, losses, injuries and departures. All those things go into play when you start to make decisions, but I expect to be back here."
Smith loses an ally in Maturi -- a man he called "a relentless and tireless worker" and one whose energy "inspires us all." After this season, Smith still has two years left on his seven-year deal. But many assumed that an extension would get done before the 2011-12 season because representatives of Smith and the university had been discussing it.
Smith said before the season began that the adjusted contract was essentially complete and the lawyers were merely finalizing the details. But in mid- January, the university announced that an extension would not be addressed until the end of the season. On Thursday, Kaler said no coaches will get extensions until a new AD is hired.
"I don't think it starts over again," Smith said of extension talks. "I leave it to lawyers to handle the wording and things. I don't think I've ever been in a negotiation-type thing with an AD. It's usually something where 'this is what it is -- thank you or no thank you.'"
The Gophers were successful during the nonconference portion of the schedule before losing standout forward Trevor Mbakwe because of a torn ACL. They rebounded from an 0-4 start in Big Ten play by winning four of their next five games, but the team still is searching to find consistency and reach .500 in the league. The Gophers are coming off an ugly loss at Iowa on Wednesday that could hurt their NCAA tournament hopes.
Another potential impact of Maturi's departure on the basketball program could relate to Smith's wish for a new practice facility. Maturi shared Smith's belief that the facility was a priority, but a new AD could have a different philosophy about what is important for the university. Smith -- who reiterated the need for the facility Thursday -- said officials have been looking at facilities at other schools during road trips, and that he remains confident one will be built at Minnesota.
"We'll keep pushing to get it done," Smith said. "It's a process -- it's taken longer than we expected -- but we'll continue to do that. Dr. Kaler, I think he understands. ... I think we're on the cusp of getting it done. And that's where a new AD will be a critical part as well."