While Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague wouldn’t definitely state that Tubby Smith will be back next year as Gophers men’s basketball coach, he did indicate he’s happy with Smith’s ability to take the team to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.
“I evaluate coaches at the end of the year. I don’t during the year publicly,” Teague said. “He has got us to the NCAA tournament, so we’re looking forward to going with him and the team down there [to Austin, Texas]. It’s going to be a great opportunity to play UCLA Friday night.
“I don’t comment on anything during the year, as far as status of coaches. I don’t think it’s fair to them, whether they’re 12-0 or 0-12, to use a football reference. We’ll evaluate at the end of the year. I always say that. I always stick to that, I think that’s the way to do it. But going to the NCAA is a good accomplishment, and I’m proud that we’re going.”
Teague also said he’s looking forward to playing a traditional powerhouse in the Bruins, and while oddsmakers have the Gophers as a three-point favorite, he said the Pac-12 regular-season champions will still pose a real challenge.
If you want my opinion, there shouldn’t be any doubt about Smith coming back next season.
And certainly if the Gophers can beat UCLA and make it to the round of 32, something they haven’t officially done since 1990, there won’t be any question about whether Smith comes back.
But win or lose, Tubby should be the Gophers coach next season. And if he is dismissed, I assure you he will have a job at a top school in a hurry, just like he could have had last season when he turned down three major-school jobs to stay with the Gophers.
UCLA coach in trouble
The Los Angeles Times had two reports in the past week on the uncertain future of Bruins coach Ben Howland.
Howland has been at UCLA for 10 seasons, and has taken his squad to the Final Four three times while posting a 233-106 record at the school. But the Bruins didn’t make the tournament in two of the previous three season and the Times reported that ticket sales have slumped, with only five games of crowds over 10,000 this season at Pauley Pavilion.
During the course of the season, athletic director Dan Guerrero made few comments about Howland’s future but did say that, because the Bruins had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation even though they were coming off NCAA probation, “there were high expectations when the season began. Those expectations remain high.”
When asked about his future this week, Howland said, “Contact Dan. I am not going to make any comment.” Later, he added: “As I have said before, I’m just focused on coaching my team, focused on trying to help them be the very best they can be. I can’t respond to reports like that.”
Lots of success at WBC
Former Twin and current TV commentator Bert Blyleven was the pitching coach for the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic. He should get a lot of credit for the success of the squad, which made it to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Dominican Republic 4-1. The team posted a 5.49 team ERA, but eight of the 13 pitchers had a sub-3.40 ERA.
Current Twins had similar success as Joe Mauer finished with the second-highest batting average for Team USA in the WBC, hitting .429 in six games with two doubles, a triple, two RBI and four runs scored. He also had the highest on-base percentage, .538, after drawing five walks.
Justin Morneau had the second-highest average for Team Canada, hitting .636 with three doubles, three RBI and four runs scored in three games. Glen Perkins posted a 9.00 ERA in two innings for the U.S., giving up two runs on three hits while striking out two and walking two.
• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan on Aaron Hicks’ bid to be the starting center fielder: “These next two weeks are very important for a guy like Hicks, because he’ll start seeing the one and two and three starters in any rotation. And he’ll also see some of the better bullpen people step in there in meaningful situations. And every at-bat and every game for a guy like Hicks, as we approach the April 1 opener, it’s important to see how he reacts and responds to that type of competition. All that’s gone on so far, it’s been fine and good, but it’s not as important as what’s going to go on here in the next 14 days or so.”
• Colton Iverson, the former Gophers forward/center who has led Colorado State to a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament while averaging 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, was quoted in the Denver Post about his departure from the Gophers: “We [he and his family] just thought it was best that if I left and it turned out to be a happy move for me. Now I play with a chip on my shoulder because I thought I had more to prove. I think I have done a good job of proving that. But at the same time, there’s no hard feelings. If I didn’t transfer, I wouldn’t be getting the looks and the opportunities I will be getting after this season.”
• Gavin Schilling, the highly regarded 6-9 forward from Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., who was a top recruiting target of the Gophers, announced Wednesday he is going to Michigan State.
• There are rumors that former Wild star Marian Gaborik, now with the New York Rangers, is on the trading block. Maybe a return to Xcel Energy Center would rejuvenate Gaborik, if the Rangers would pick up some of his big contract.
• Former Twin Michael Cuddyer is hitting .333 [13-for-39] over 13 games in his second spring training with the Rockies. Cuddyer has three doubles, three RBI and three runs scored. … Jason Kubel is hitting .200 [6-for-30] over 13 games in his second spring training with the Diamondbacks. Kubel has one home run and three RBI.
• Golden Valley native and former Gophers star Jordan Leopold already has reached a few career milestones this season for the Sabres, playing in his 600th game earlier this year, and picking up his 200th assist in a 3-2 victory over Montreal on Tuesday.
• University of Tennessee coach Butch Jones will headline the state high school football coaches clinic April 4 at the Doubletree Hotel in St. Louis Park.
• Gophers hockey recruits Taylor Cammarata and Justin Kloos, both playing for Waterloo of the USHL, are the top two scorers in the league. Cammarata has 33 goals and 44 assists in 49 games, while Kloos has 24 goals and 48 assists in 44 games.
• The Vikings apparently didn’t try to re-sign reserve offensive guard Geoff Schwartz, who signed as a free agent with the Chiefs.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org