Sometimes you just have to catch a break and run with it. With the formal introduction and press conference about two hours away, the thing we’re still struck by is how big-time this move is, particularly in a sports market — college and pro — that is often small-time or, at best, medium-time.
For the Gophers men’s basketball team, coming off a dismal year, to haul in a coach like Smith — you realize he’s been to the NCAA tournament 14 years in a row spanning three different teams and won an NCAA title, right? — and also to pay a top price for him? It’s not just bold. It has the potential to be a perception-changing move. For too long, the teams in this market have aimed low and hoped high (Jim Wacker, Glen Mason, Dwane Casey, Dan Monson, Brad Childress) or made moves on the cheap and crossed their fingers (Mike Tice, the Twins in free agency and, though we like the initial impression, Tim Brewster).
There is a chance Tubby Smith won’t work out here, but it won’t be for a lack of effort, money or vision. It’s bringing instant energy and credibility not just to the Gophers, but to the sports climate as a whole. That, folks, is a more-than-welcome change of pace in this market. It’s nice to feel big-time, isn’t it?
We wanted to look back at that and remember a time when the state was overwhelmed with joy that Tubby Smith was coming to coach here (feel free, by the way, to skim right over the Brewster part). Because right now, even though he came with the reputation of being one of the top coaches in the country, the Gophers simply do not look like a well-coached team. And they do not have a fan base that is in love with the coach. They have a fan base that sends us profanity-filled texts after ugly losses that disparage the head coach. And they are a team that seems destined for now to play in the NIT, thus ensuring the number of NCAA tourney victories in Smith's four years here will remain at zero.
If he's not what we thought he was, then we really don't have an answer to our daily question: Wha' happened?