Latest Tubby rumors get a familiar Tubby response

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2012 - 12:25 AM

Smith is flattered that other schools might be interested in him.

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Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith

Photo: Mark Humphrey, Associated Press

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NEW YORK - To Tubby Smith, coaching rumors are simply a reiteration that he's doing some things right -- and no more than that.

On the day before the NIT semifinals, the Gophers coach again said he is not interested in other schools' biddings, though he doesn't hate to be reminded he's wanted amongst the basketball world.

"I certainly always take it as a compliment," Smith said. "I think it tells us the respect that people have for what we do. I don't put them out there. I'm happy where I am and I think we've got a great program going.

"Obviously, we know there's a lot of things we need to continue to improve on to keep building the program. But no, I'm not a candidate for any place. We're very comfortable where we are."

Smith has maintained that stance even as his name has popped up in conjunction with other jobs in recent years. South Carolina was among the alleged suitors this year, though reports Monday indicated Kansas State coach Frank Martin will be taking the position instead.

Still, there's a chance that the consistent wave of rumors could help nudge the Gophers toward giving Smith a contract extension. Talk has essentially been tabled since the announcement that athletic director Joel Maturi is departing June 30. But Smith says that with two years left on his remaining deal, he is not concerned -- and he also still sounds confident an extension will happen.

"We'll deal with it whenever we've got to. We're in the market for a new AD," Smith said. "We'll sit down at some point and talk about it with [school President Eric Kaler] and whoever else is involved. ... I don't think it's going to affect recruiting or anything else -- that's the only thing I'm worried about at this point in time."

Smith seems to be in a safer place job-wise now that he has notched three NIT victories -- his first postseason wins since joining the Gophers -- and that success could factor into negotiations as well.

Health update

• Smith said he encouraged center Ralph Sampson III to play in the quarterfinals against Middle Tennessee State, but that the senior is having trouble trusting his tweaked knee, and declined. "I just ask him how he feels. And then if he doesn't have that, 'Coach, I'm ready,' " Smith said, punching the air to accentuate his point, "then there's no sense in even considering playing him."

• Freshman forward Oto Osenieks (concussion) had a symptom-free day Sunday, and he was being evaluated Monday to determine his status for Tuesday's game.

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