Smith ponders Gophers basketball team's travails

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2012 - 9:50 AM

Tubby Smith defended differing punishment for Saul Smith and Trevor Mbakwe.

hide

Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith speaks at Big Ten media day.

Photo: Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

CHICAGO - Through a 33-year coaching career, Gophers coach Tubby Smith has learned to never utter the phrase, "Things can't get worse."

They always can, of course.

Still, when Smith's son, Gophers assistant coach Saul Smith, was arrested for drunken driving the morning after the coach's star player, Trevor Mbakwe, wrapped up a probation violation hearing triggered by the same offense, the veteran coach couldn't help but at least think the forbidden phrase.

This didn't happen, Smith said Thursday at Big Ten media day regarding what he thought immediately after finding out about his son's charge. What else could go wrong?

"It couldn't have been worse," Smith said of the timing. "Trevor just got back from Florida Saturday morning. He hadn't even gotten back yet. ... I was just so disappointed. What can you say? What can you do? There's nothing you can do ... It's just like the wind knocked you off your feet."

Chorus of criticism

In the span of a week, the hype of a promising Gophers season was completely blanketed by talk of legal issues. News of Mbakwe's drunken driving arrest and probation violation was first reported at Gophers media day Oct. 12, and it monopolized the news cycle until his hearing in Florida. Right after his case was settled, Saul Smith was arrested.

The side-by-side cases have provided plenty of opportunity for criticism from Gophers fans, who don't understand why Mbakwe -- who also has been on probation for felony battery and violating a restraining order -- is with the team to start the year, while Saul Smith, a first-time offender, isn't. Smith said his son is expected to be a role model for the players and thus is assessed in a different way.

The coach suspended Mbakwe from team activities for an undisclosed length of time after Mbakwe's July drunken-driving arrest. But while Mbakwe is expected to play in Minnesota's first exhibition game Thursday, Saul Smith has been put on unpaid, administrative leave -- although Tubby Smith did say he expects him to be coaching at some point this season. Saul Smith's salary is $91,755 a year, according to the U of M.

"It's a higher standard," said Smith, who allowed athletic director Norwood Teague to lead the decision-making process on Saul Smith's punishment because he is "a parent first." Teague said Monday he was not sure whether Smith will remain suspended until his Dec. 3 court date, though he reiterated the suspension is "indefinite." He said the university is still evaluating the situation.

Mbakwe's punishment was previously kept confidential, but Smith on Thursday said it involved requiring the forward to do community service, attend Alcoholics Anonymous and see a psychologist. Those initiatives, which Smith said were necessary for Mbakwe to get reinstated with the team, greatly helped Mbakwe in court last week, with the judge agreeing to two additional years of probation rather than jail time.

"Can you imagine if he hadn't done anything? He would be in jail, probably," Smith said.

Character measured

Smith's empathy and willingness to work with Mbakwe despite his legal problems comes from his core belief that Mbakwe, despite his mistakes, is well-intentioned.

"Is he a good person? Yeah, he's a good person. Is he a man of character? Yeah, he's a man of character. But he made a mistake," Smith said. "Lord knows the things I've done that, thank God, were never publicized."

Fellow forward Rodney Williams said the team, which is fighting the perception that the legal battles are an on-court distraction, agrees wholeheartedly.

"We all know the kind of guy Trevor is, and we're behind him 100 percent," Williams said.

Even so, Smith knows the criticism will come. In 33 years, he's developed the belief that he needs to stick to his gut in handling such issues.

"I didn't last all these years in this business doing stupid stuff," he said. "I lasted this long because I do the right things by people. And I let my record speak for myself. ... People are going to think what they think."

  • related content

  • Big Ten men's basketball media poll

    Thursday October 25, 2012

    Twenty-four members of the Big Ten media were polled on the predicted order of finish in the conference. Here are the results, with comments from Star Tribune beat writer Amelia...

  • GOPHERS MEN 2012-13 season opener: Nov. 9 vs. American • Williams Arena

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close