University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague fired Tubby Smith last Monday, and after a week of searching, the Gophers have no men’s basketball coach, no hints of who it might be and no clue as to when an announcement of a hire might take place.
Speculation has drenched the state like a blanket of gasoline and from it has emerged a wildfire of panic, anger and overreaction as fans look ahead to Week 2.
But make no mistake, state of Minnesota: this is what you asked for. Rarely do these processes get wrapped up quickly, predictably or with a tidy bow.
At this point, not much is known about the Gophers administration’s plan or progress because anything that has been reported has come from anonymous sources, and none of it has originated from the men leading the search.
In the days ahead, the Gophers likely will set their sights on Marquette’s Buzz Williams, whose team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament Saturday. He is Minnesota’s last remaining top target, after VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens made it clear they weren’t interested in leaving their schools.
Xavier’s Chris Mack could be a candidate, as could Florida Gulf Coast’s Andy Enfield, Alabama’s Anthony Grant, Virginia’s Tony Bennett or any number of other coaches. Admittedly, at this point, there is a lot of educated guesswork involved.
In the days and weeks leading up to the season’s end, Gophers fans loudly made their wishes clear. E-mails criticizing the former coach filled Teague’s inbox. A “Fire Tubby” Twitter account appeared and quickly gained a staunch following.
Now, one week later, a “Fire Norwood” Twitter account has been created and the social media site is filled with more vitriol, hysteria and distrust than ever before. Get ahold of yourselves, Gopher Nation.
Having a foolproof plan in place upon instigating a coaching search simply isn’t possible. Calling around about a coaching vacancy while a coach still is sitting on the bench is a quick way to lose respect within the industry. Interest can be gauged beforehand, but real discussions happen after the hammer comes down.
Now that it has, a span of a week represents a fraction of time for many high-profile coaching searches. Teague and associate AD Mike Ellis are neither out of time nor options.
Marquette’s Williams is an alum of Villa 7, the coaching incubator Ellis and Teague made popular at VCU and used to hire Smart and Grant while there. Williams has stayed close with Teague and Ellis, and he has a well-documented less-than-ideal relationship with Marquette AD Larry Williams.
Williams, a true players’ coach who has brought the Golden Eagles to at least the Sweet 16 in each of the past three seasons, likely would go over swimmingly with Gophers fans, but his reported $2.8 million salary, along with comfortable facilities and resources at Marquette, could keep him from making what many would view as a lateral move.
Beyond Williams, Smart, Stevens and Flip Saunders, the latter of whom reportedly turned the Gophers down over the weekend, there is no candidate guaranteed to ignite an increasingly skeptical fan base. At the same time, Teague and Ellis have an impressive network within the industry.
Those who want a perfect answer instantaneously are missing the reality of what is happening: Minnesota is not going from A to B; it’s going from A to C. The ‘B’ is the middle part — the in-between time that is ideally avoided but is often as much a part of the method as the start or the finish.
That’s where the search is now, Gophers fans. This state of uncertainty comes with the territory of what most of you wanted.
Amelia Rayno • firstname.lastname@example.org