It's March, it's Minnesota, and there are college basketball jobs open. It must be time for the Tubby Smith watch, right? That's about all it takes. Auburn, Oregon, maybe Georgia Tech now if Paul Hewitt decides to take the job at St. John's. Last year it was Virginia, among others, linked to Tubby.
So it goes here in the land of pretty decent. Major U of M head coaching jobs, with the exception of hockey, are probably viewed by many coaches (at least those not from here, for which this could be a dream job) as final stepping stones to an ideal destination. Programs here, in general, range from slightly below average to slightly above average within a power conference. The area is nice, but the winters are brutal. The fan base is generally supportive, but pro sports dominate so much attention.
What we generally wind up with are coaches who are either linked to other jobs when they have a success here, or that are mediocre-to-bad enough that nobody else would hire them. Lou Holtz, who left after two years as the U football coach in the 1980s, won a national championship at Notre Dame; Brenda Frese (Oldfield), who bolted the women's basketball program after a one-year turnaround, then won a national title at Maryland. When you feel stuck in the middle, you never stop wondering if your best and brightest -- when they come along -- will be here for long.
Tubby, though, is a unique case. He took a less-glamorous job than he previously held by coming here from Kentucky. He already won a national championship. He perennially takes teams to the NCAA tournament. From the get-go, there has been a feeling among Gophers fans of both good fortune and trepidation at having Tubby land here. Why would he pick us? Do we deserve him? How long will it last? Guess it all depends on what he's looking for. More money? Better facilities? Another change of scenery? The stability he already has here, with a program he's helped revamp and could bring to the next level? He's 58 and could have another job left in him. Was Minnesota just a step in another direction that he figured would eventually lead him to a step up that wasn't the frying pan of Kentucky? Did he come here thinking this could be the final job of his career, only to find it had less to offer than he thought? What do we make of what he said a few days ago in the wake of the Auburn rumors? "Obviously that's just talk, because I'm very pleased with what we've accomplished here. ... I'm pleased with where we are in the program. ... I'm looking forward to coming back to Minnesota."
It's hardly definitive, and likely so on purpose. He sounds like a good coach who has a pretty good job but might not turn down a better one -- par for the course in Minnesota.