The last thing Tubby Smith thought was going to happen was his dismissal as Gophers basketball coach.
“You stay in this business long enough and things like this happen,” said Smith, in his first interview since receiving the news Monday from Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague. “Oh no [I didn’t expect it]. I mean, why would I think something like this would happen?”
He added: “I always take the high road, know what I mean?”
Asked about his relationship with Teague, Smith replied: “Oh, I mean [it was] as good as you could have. He’d only been here a year.”
Smith said he isn’t planning on retiring.
“I’m going to coach again. I’m going to take some time and think about what I want to do. That’s all I’m going to do,” said Smith, who turned down two job offers last season to stay at Minnesota because he and his wife, Donna, loved it here.
“I’ll go to the NCAA [tournament, but] it won’t be to talk to people [about a coaching job]. I’m on a lot of committees and a lot of things involved with college basketball. So I’ll take care of my responsibilities. So yeah, I’ll be at the Final Four.”
Smith said there is always a chance of being fired if you don’t win it all. Sure, he was disappointed with the way the season turned out after having early success with a 15-1 record and a No. 8 national ranking, only to have that followed by a number of tough losses.
“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “Some things work out and some things don’t.”
Felt he was succeeding
I agreed with Tubby when he said he felt his tenure at Minnesota, where he was 124-81 in six seasons, was successful: “Yeah, hell, we won. It wasn’t like we were losers. It’s just how much you want to win? At what level do you want to win? And what level can you win at?”
Smith never got the the practice facility he wanted, but he said he believes it will happen for the next coach.
“[University administrators] know what they need,” he said. “They’ll do whatever they have to get it done. [They] have to keep working on the things to improve the program, and they will.”
Smith, who raised a ton of money for local charities, said what he enjoyed most was the relationships he built with so many people through the university.
“Getting a chance to build a relationship with the fans, and the people that work at the foundation,” he said. “That’s what it is all about. It’s not about money. It’s not about wins and losses. It’s about relationships with players. That’s why I have been in this business and got in this business as a teacher and a coach. To teach the game, that’s what I’ve always touted and that’s what I do.
“I’m in North Carolina [now]. I’m spending some time with some folks and thinking about what I want to do.”
But Smith said he knew he would be fired by the time his bosses broke the news to him.
“Oh sure, by that time, sure you knew I knew,” he said. “I had an idea. But that’s neither here nor there. I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with you. I hope I’m still a close personal friend. We’ll talk again.”