Powers on Tubby


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Nov 20, 2008
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Tom Powers: Rumors are distracting, but Tubby Smith still has work to do
Rumors are distracting, but Smith still has work to do as Gophers coach
By Tom Powers
Updated: 03/20/2010 01:05:26 AM CDT

MILWAUKEE — Welcome to a day in the life of Tubby Smith. It goes something like this: Wake up, discover you are very close to taking the Auburn coaching job, lose to Xavier in the first round of the NCAA tournament, answer questions about the Auburn coaching job, fly back to Minnesota, wait for next rumor.

It's a full life. But the job gossip can get tiresome. At least his players have gotten used to it over the past three years.

"If you're a basketball player, you can play in the snow," said senior Lawrence Westbrook, who scored 19 points in his last game as a Gopher on Friday. "Rumors that coach Smith is going to leave? Someone's offered him a job? That shouldn't affect you at all. It is no distraction to us. It may be a distraction to him, but not to us."

Well, they've heard it all before. Let's see, during his three-year tenure in Minnesota, Tubby was supposed to have agreed to coach Virginia, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, North Carolina State, Arizona and now Auburn.

These constant rumors detract attention from the real issue at hand, which is that for Smith's next act he needs to recruit a couple of multi-dimensional players. Too many of the current Golden Gophers can do just one thing on the court. That was especially evident on Friday against Xavier. The Musketeers had a couple of players who could shoot, pass, dribble and/or rebound. It made them the clearly superior team.

Meanwhile, athletics director Joel Maturi was walking around Bradley Center just sort of shrugging his shoulders Friday morning. Yes, he said, he had heard the rumor. No, he added, none of the parties allegedly involved had spoken to him about anything. All through every single rumor, no one has ever told him anything.
Hey, Joel, get on the Internet and check out the blogs. If you look long enough, you'll find a site that declares Tubby Smith and the Loch Ness Monster are one and the same. And if you click enough buttons you can find contradictory information on everything.

"I'm looking forward to coming back to Minnesota," Smith insisted after Friday's 65-54 loss.

Friday's rumor came courtesy of CBSSports.com, which cited a trusted source. But they just don't make trusted sources like they used to.

"Obviously, that's just talk," Smith said. "I'm very pleased with what we've accomplished here. I'm very pleased with where we are in the program."

All I know is if the guy ever wins an NCAA tournament game with Minnesota, the Vatican allegedly will call to offer him the papacy. If this is what it's like having a high-profile coach, the Gophers might want to go with a nobody next time around. Every time there's a job opening, Tubby supposedly is on his way. Maybe everyone has the same trusted source. But it gets to be a pain after a while.

But Smith should be pleased with what he has accomplished in Minnesota. He's had good success recruiting, and the more of his own players he brings in, the better his team gets. The program is gathering steam. Despite all the troubles the Gophers had in losing Royce White, Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen, they still made it to the tournament. That's pretty good.

Now he should be ready for phase two of the recruiting process: He needs to somehow get a hold of a few multi-dimensional players. The Gophers have talent, but it's spread too thinly. For example, Colton Iverson has defensive ability. Ralph Sampson has a nice scoring touch. Combine the two big men, and you've got a championship-caliber postman.

Combine Blake Hoffarber's deadly three-point shooting with Devoe Joseph's ability to move around and get open, and you'd have a high-quality guard. The Gophers' roster is filled with one-dimensional players. Correcting that is Tubby's next assignment.

Athletes who can do several things well are among the elite, of course. But these appearances in the NCAA tournament help by keeping Minnesota's name out there. And Smith certainly has a solid reputation. All he needs is to attract one or two multi-talented guys, and the program will soar.

"We can build on this," Smith declared after the loss. "There's some things we have to continue to do recruiting-wise, facility-wise, all kinds of things we can get better at."

The key word there is "we," as in Tubby and his posse.
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