Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said men's basketball coach Tubby Smith was one of three well-known colleges coaches he interviewed, and said all of them had interest in the job.

Maturi became convinced the Gophers were going to attract a great coach once the position became open.

"Well, I really believed we could get a high-profile person," said Maturi, who would not reveal the names of the other two coaches who interviewed. "To be honest with you, I never thought we'd be able to get a Tubby Smith, but I did believe that our basketball program was such that we would have some very high-profile, successful coaches interested in the job.

It was only three days after former coach Dan Monson accepted a buyout package worth more than $1.3 million on Nov. 30, 2006, that Maturi heard from two different people on the same day that Smith might consider leaving Kentucky for the right position.

"On Jan. 3, 2007, I met with the [Atlanta] search firm, Parker and Associates, about both [coaching] searches, football and basketball," Maturi said, "and I asked Dan Parker the question, 'Do you think Tubby Smith would ever be interested in coming to Minnesota?' And he mentioned to me on January 3, that, 'You know what? I'll find out. I don't know, but I'll find out.'

"And I would say sometime later in January I found out that his lawyer friend at least was willing to talk to us. I never talked to Tubby but I did talk to his lawyer, Ricky Lefft, sometime in February.

"Well, then it was a lot of discussions with [Lefft] and with others. Not with Tubby, I didn't talk with Tubby until just prior to him becoming our coach."

That's when Maturi went to work with the goal of hiring Smith. And on March 22, Smith was announced as the Gophers coach.

The Gophers (12-4) proved they could play with the best in the Big Ten on Thursday night, losing a heartbreaker to Indiana 65-60 in the first sellout at Williams Arena since 2005, despite the fact they had a bad shooting night. They hit only three of 17 three-point shots, compared to Indiana's 9-for-22. They were outrebounded 42-26. They also made only 11 of 21 free throws. Despite those poor statistics, they were in the game until the end.

"Well, I think all good relationships are win-win," Maturi said. "I think Tubby's happy to be in Minnesota and obviously we're happy to have him."

Smith will earn more than $13 million over the seven-year contract, and Maturi said he had the support of University President Robert Bruininks and the Board of Regents when it was decided to make Smith the highest-paid coach in Gophers history.

"Well, I think if we got the right person, we believed that it would be rewarding financially for the institution," Maturi said. "... We've increased our season tickets and ticket sales to the extent that he has made up that difference, and that's what we anticipated."

Legacy for Pohlads?

For the first time it appears that Bruininks and the Board of Regents agree that a new baseball park has to be built to replace Siebert Field. Drawings for a new park will be available in about six weeks.

Like naming rights for the Gophers football stadium, the administration is agreeable to having the stadium named after someone making a sizable contribution to the cost of building the stadium, expected to be between $10 million to $12 million.

What a perfect legacy for the Pohlad family.

Carl and his family have done so much to keep the Twins here. It would be great to perpetuate the name by convincing the Pohlads to contribute enough so the stadium could be called Eloise and Carl Pohlad Stadium.

Several people have approached Carl about the possibility, and he is considering it.

Many Twins and other professional baseball players work out in the offseason at the Gophers' indoor football complex. The new Gophers baseball stadium would include a modern workout room which Twins players could use during the offseason.

I know Carl and the Pohlad family make a lot of charitable contributions and don't look to receive any great praise for it. But this would be different. Naming the stadium would be a tribute to two great people: the late Eloise, a wonderful lady and a close personal friend, and Carl, who deserves to be remembered for all he has done for baseball and so many other things.

Jottings

Hanging on the wall in the office of Mike Herman, manager of baseball communications for the Twins, is a big poster that was drawn after the club didn't go through contraction in 2002. It reads: "The team that saved baseball," after the team went on to win the American League Central Division that year. The four players pictured on the poster are Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, A. J. Pierzynski and Doug Mientkiewicz. All of them are no longer with the Twins. Mientkiewicz is a free agent because the Yankees haven't signed him for 2008.

Twins lefthander Francisco Liriano, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm a year ago, will be at TwinsFest on the weekend of Jan. 25-27 to answer any questions about him being able to pitch this season. ... Twins lefthander Glen Perkins, who had shoulder trouble last year, is working out daily at the University of Minnesota and reports that his arm is 100 percent healthy.

Josh Sternquist, who spent four years at the University of Wisconsin as an assistant in football recruiting, has joined the Gophers as an assistant recruiting coordinator. ... Linebacker Gary Tinsley of Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast, who committed to the Gophers in October, was named the MVP of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association all-star football game. Another future Gopher, Spencer Reeves of Dallas Skyline High, was named the outstanding linebacker in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. ... In the Hula Bowl on Saturday, Gophers wide receiver Ernie Wheelright caught one pass for 8 yards, running back Amir Pinnix rushed four times for 9 yards and had two receptions for 4 yards, and Marshall University's Marcus Fitzgerald, the former Holy Angels athlete and son of local sportscaster Larry, caught two passes for 49 yards.

Monson, whose top nine scorers were gone when he took the job at Long Beach State, won his first Big West Conference game the other day when the 49ers beat UC Davis 71-53. His record is 4-11 overall and 1-3 in the conference. ... Former Gopher Kris Humphries is averaging 15.3 minutes and 6.5 points per game for the Toronto Raptors.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com