Tubby is out; U search in high gear

  • Article by: DENNIS BRACKIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 26, 2013 - 8:42 AM

University says the men’s basketball program needs a new start. The fired coach gets a $2.5 million buyout.

Tubby Smith arrived at Minnesota six years ago amid great fanfare and expectations, a coach with a national championship on his résumé expected to revive a men’s basketball program that had descended to the lower levels of the Big Ten. Smith was fired Monday for largely failing to deliver on that hype, a move Athletic Director Norwood Teague said he hoped fans would view “as an investment in the future.”

That investment comes with a hefty price tag. Smith received a three-year extension last July that netted him a buyout of $2.5 million, and that, along with the firing of all of Smith’s assistant coaches, and the ensuing hiring of replacements, is likely to cost at least $6 million.

Teague put no timetable on a new hire, but said he would not employ a search firm, a sign that the search should move quickly and that Teague is confident in his ability to make a strong hire. Teague said athletic directors “always have a shortlist” of coaching candidates, and said he would interview both local and national candidates.

“I feel it’s time for a fresh approach for our basketball program, for our student athletes and the program in general,” said Teague, who replaced Joel Maturi as athletic director last June. “We felt now, following a season where there were high expectations for this coaching staff, that it was time to make a change.”

Criticism of Smith had become rampant in recent weeks. The Gophers started this season 15-1 and climbed to a No. 8 national ranking. But then, like in so many of Smith’s past Gophers teams, the bottom dropped out. Minnesota went 6-12 after that strong start, finished 8-10 in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the conference tournament. The Gophers won their first NCAA tournament game in Smith’s six seasons last Thursday, then were beaten by Florida in the tournament’s round of 32 on Sunday.

Teague declined to cite specifics behind his decision, saying that the firing of Smith was based on the coach’s “whole body of work.”

Smith’s teams never finished above .500 in Big Ten play, and his overall conference record was 46-62. His teams generally started strong then faded; the past three years the Gophers had a combined 48-16 record entering February, and a 5-17 record during the month. Attendance had been on the decline for several years, to 11,316 in 2011-12, a drop of more than 2,000 fans per game over two seasons.

Smith’s Minnesota programs had also been marked by transfers of talented players, and several recent disciplinary problems. The exodus of players leaving Smith’s program with remaining eligibility included Devoe Joseph, Colton Iverson, Justin Cobbs, Paul Carter and Royce White. Within the past year Smith’s son, Saul, and team star Trevor Mbakwe each faced drunken-driving arrests.

One Twin Cities resident well-versed in Gophers basketball, former coach Jim Dutcher, said he wasn’t surprised by Teague’s decision. The Gophers never showed the sort of upward movement expected from a coach with Smith’s previous track record.

“When [Teague] said ‘the ability to recruit,’ I thought, in six years [under Smith] the Gopher have not had a guy drafted by the NBA, in six years they have not had a first-team all-conference player,” Dutcher said. “So when you look at recruiting, and ask, ‘Did he do a great job?’ you’d have to say no.”

Dutcher also questioned Smith’s ability to develop the talent he did recruit. Most of Smith’s top recruits, Dutcher said, “were not much better as seniors than they were as freshmen.”

Steep price tag

Reports of Smith’s firing appeared online on at least two separate sites before Teague personally informed Smith of his firing early Monday afternoon.

“No one intentionally did that,” Teague said. “Things leak, and that’s just the way it is.”

Still, Smith took news of the firing well, Teague said.

“I tell you what, he was very gracious,” Teague said. “I could see the disappointment in his eyes, and that’s hard to tell Tubby [news like that]. I don’t think he was totally surprised.”

Smith was unavailable for interviews, but said in a statement released by the university: “Our staff did things the right way and will leave knowing that the program is in far better shape than when we arrived.”

Smith took the Gophers to three NCAA tournaments in his six seasons; they went only once under his predecessor, Dan Monson.

That the Gophers were in better shape than before Smith arrived left some people wondering whether the decision made sense, especially financially. The university has been under scrutiny for its administrative costs, described as out of control by a January Wall Street Journal report.

The university had already paid more than $4 million since 2006 to former coaches Monson (basketball), Glen Mason (football) and Tim Brewster (football).

Smith’s three-year extension signed last July raised his buyout after this season from $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, said she would not enter a debate on whether the firing was justified.

“But it is my responsibility to provide oversight to financial management,” she said. “And I was concerned that his contract was extended with an increased buyout if there were concerns about his performance.”

There have been suggestions that private donors would help defray some of the buyout costs, and Teague did not deny that possibility, saying only that the buyout costs would “be out of athletic department funds,” which include fundraising.

He said the athletic budget was “in good shape ... and if we did not feel good about that from our own budget, we would not have been haphazard about a decision like this.”

In the end, Teague said, it was a decision about the future, “something we feel like will propel us.’’



 

  • A LOOK AT PAST BUYOUTS

    Tubby Smith became the fourth Gophers coach of a major men’s sport since 2006 to be bought out of his contract:

    Coach Sport Year *Buyout

    Dan Monson Basketball 2006 $1.33 million

    Glen Mason Football 2007 $2.2 million

    Tim Brewster Football 2010 $775,000

    Tubby Smith Basketball 2013 $2.5 million

    *The direct buyout sum is the total owed the head coach. The total buyout costs, including paying assistant coaches, overlap in coaching salaries between the new and fired staffs and fringe benefits, is significantly higher. The buyouts of Monson and Mason cost the university more than $5 million, and the costs associated with Smith could be more than $6 million.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent 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 pm30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 am
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers do against Michigan?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close