Years ago, when Smith had only been here a short time, he told me, “of all the places I’ve coached, this will be the toughest place to win.”
He wouldn’t have left Kentucky for Minnesota if he knew what he faced.
Teague and his colleagues have had good success hiring basketball coaches in the past. But none of the coaches they hired had to follow Tubby Smith, and a lot of candidates will consider that.
One of the first of his friends to arrive at the Smith home Monday after the firing was Gophers football coach Jerry Kill, who went there to support him.
I hung around that basketball team more than some of the guys who made the decision to fire him, and until the facilities are greatly improved, a coach as talented as the late John Wooden, who won 10 national titles at UCLA, won’t be able to win here.
Flip Saunders, who could wind up as general manager of the Timberwolves starting next season or as the successor to Smith, has been unavailable to his closest personal friends the past couple of days.
Either organization would benefit by hiring Saunders who, in having coached the Wolves, Pistons and Wizards, knows the game as well as anybody. Saunders also has been trying to put a group together to buy the Wolves.
I was told by a Gophers athletic department official that they will interview him about the coaching vacancy.
It would be a great hire, having been a Gophers assistant for five seasons from 1981-86, and his naming would be a popular choice. But Saunders might prefer to coach again in the NBA.
Maybe the best bet, if they can pay him a competitive salary, is former Virginia Commonwealth head coach Anthony Grant, who is now head coach at Alabama.
• The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday that a key factor in Shaka Smart’s decision to stay at Virginia Commonwealth is a commitment by VCU administrators to provide enhancements to the program such as a basketball practice facility, increased salaries for assistants and increased recruiting and travel budgets.
• Former Hopkins standout Trent Lockett played a key role in Marquette’s 74-72 victory over Butler which sent the Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16, where they will face Miami tonight. Lockett scored 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 36 minutes. The senior transfer also added six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. He scored five points and had 11 rebounds in a 59-58 victory over Davidson in the second round.
• Former Chaska standout Jake White played a key role in helping ninth-seeded Wichita State upset No. 1 seed Gonzaga 76-70 on Saturday in the West Regional, scoring five points and grabbing three rebounds. For Gonzaga, former Osseo star Sam Dower had one block in six minutes. White and Wichita State face 13th-seeded La Salle on Thursday for a chance to reach the Elite Eight.
• Facing off against White will be D.J. Peterson, a sophomore guard for La Salle who played high school basketball at Hopkins. Peterson hasn’t been putting up a lot of points, but he has played a lot of minutes and is a defensive standout for the Explorers. In three NCAA tournament games, Peterson has averaged 27 minutes per contest while accumulating eight points, 10 rebounds, six assists, one block and one steal.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com