uspw_7100886

What we talk about when we talk about Tubby

Yesterday, Tubby Smith was fired. And predictably the fan reaction was almost overwhelmingly positive. And it will stay that way, for now.

Start googling "Tubby Smith fired" and you'll find an awful lot of pictures of Shaka Smart. Smart, of course, is closely linked to the Minnesota Athletic Director, and hey, what fan base wouldn't want Smart? Never mind that he's previously turned down far better jobs than Minnesota, or that he's currently linked to UCLA, which might be one of the top four or five jobs in the nation.

It gets more complex the more fan reactions you read. Brad Stevens? Why not?! What about Anthony Grant or Buzz Williams? Meh, let's go higher profile.

And herein lies the problem.

I come from a school which isn't among the elite in its conference. I'm not comparing your Minnesota to my Florida State, but there are some similarities. First, there are far more attractive positions within the conference. Second, the rafters at Williams Arena, like the rafters at the Donald L. Tucker Center, aren't exactly filled with banners. And third, Minnesota is (or was) coached by someone who was enjoying a high level of success.

Fans like to assume that their school is far more attractive than it is. And Minnesota fans are no different. But if Shaka Smart turns down just about every Division I position in order to coach at Minnesota, then I will gladly shut up and wish them well. Hell, if they get any A-list coach I'll shut up.

But what' the lure?

Like Florida State, Minnesota is in the backwaters. It isn't exactly surrounded by high-major talent. Just start surfing the top-100 rankings for the past decade and see how many Minnesota players you find. So Minnesota has to travel to find players. Which is fine, all schools travel, but Minnesota is doing it against Indiana and Michigan State and Ohio State and Michigan.

So any coach who goes there has to understand that he's going to lose recruits based on what other coaches are sitting next to him at high school games. How many high end kids go on television and pick from a selection of hats which includes something like Kansas, Duke, UCLA, and Minnesota? I'll give you a hint, it's zero.

So the coach Minnesota hires will have to accept this. Sure, he'll say all the right things about changing the perception, but in the end, Minnesota is Minnesota and Indiana isn't.

The next thing the potential coach will have to is look backwards. What did the previous coach do? At Florida State, it was easy. Coach Hamilton stepped into what had become the doormat of the ACC.

At Minnesota the coach will be replacing a man who is arguably the most successful Gophers coach since the early 20th Century. Yes, Clem Haskins enjoyed deeper runs into the Tournament, but everything next to Clem Haskins has an asterisk because of the fraud which brought him down.

Since Minnesota moved in to their brand new arena (in 1928) they've been to the NCAA Tournament 12 times in 85 years. Four of those have been forfeited thanks to Haskins. That leaves eight trips which includes one Elite Eight and nothing deeper.

In six years Tubby Smith has been to the NCAA Tournament three times.

So the new coach has to realize that if he takes a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team to the NCAA Tournament half the time, he's fired. Yeah, I'm sure a lot of A-list coaches are going to jump to work for that Athletic Director.

All fans want it all. Everyone wants Titles, and that's the way it should be. The problem is expecting them. The problem is thinking that if you don't fire Tubby Smith then you're accepting mediocrity. That stance is fine if you cheer for Indiana or UCLA or Duke or North Carolina. But the odds of winning at Minnesota? They are about the same as a lot of other schools who have never won it. You finally had a coach that was getting you to the Tournament, that was giving you at least a shot, and now you consider him "mediocre" and demand something more.

My hunch is that you're about to get what you've asked for, and not in a good way. I hope I'm wrong Minnesota, but if the next coach enjoys the success that Tubby Smith did, then consider yourself lucky.

Quantcast