Like the decision to fire former Gophers coach Tubby Smith, the process to replace him also is moving quickly.
University of Minnesota officials have interviewed a candidate, according to a person with knowledge of the search process. Multiple sources said a deal could happen soon.
But a coach who many saw as their dream target is no longer in play. Virginia Commonwealth confirmed Wednesday night that Shaka Smart agreed to an extension to remain head coach at the school. Multiple outlets reported the extension is through 2023 — including a raise in annual salary from $1.2 million to $1.5 million and other program perks.
“Coach Smart has demonstrated through this process that he is loyal to VCU and his greatest concern lies with our program moving forward every year,” said Ed McLaughlin, VCU’s athletic director, in a news release. “Our goal was to present him with a revised agreement proactively rather than wait for another institution to step in with an offer. I believe we accomplished our goal.”
Other candidates who could be looked at for the Gophers position include Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Alabama’s Anthony Grant, Xavier’s Chris Mack, Florida Gulf Coast’s Andy Enfield, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and former Wolves coach and Gophers player Flip Saunders. Williams, Enfield and Marshall still are coaching in the NCAA tournament, while the others could be immediately available.
Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said Monday that he and senior associate AD Mike Ellis are conducting the search themselves rather than hire a search firm as many schools do, because of their numerous coaching contacts. A good number of those came through Villa 7, a consortium designed to match coaches with athletic directors that Ellis instigated at VCU.
While rumors swirled early Wednesday about the search, Gophers officials have gone silent and proven elusive since held a news conference Monday announcing Smith’s firing. Associate AD Chris Werle reiterated Wednesday that administrators would not comment on any aspect of the search until it is complete.
Smart, 35, was hired by Teague when he was the AD at VCU and has led the Rams to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances — including a memorable run to the Final Four in 2011.
Smart was also the subject of various rumors Wednesday, including whispers of work on a deal involving the Gophers. Other reports indicated UCLA was highly interested as well, but ultimately Smart resisted the overtures of both schools, just as he did last year when he remained at VCU rather than pursue the Illinois vacancy.