NCAA Basketball

Practice facility a “must” for Tubby

Minnesota Gophers head basketball coach Tubby Smith badly wants a new practice facility. In fact, he feels a timetable to construct the facility should be made before he signs an extension, reports Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press.

A proposed $15 million practice facility is tentatively scheduled to be constructed in fall 2013. However, there haven’t been enough donations to ensure the project is completed by then.      

“I’d like to see something done to help basketball. We’ve done our part. We need to get that done because there really hasn’t been anything done for basketball since I’ve been here in a major way. … I think it’s just the times. You had the financial economic struggles. But I think the university as well as the economy is starting to move in a different direction,” Smith said in his interview with the Star Tribune.

While Tubby feels the university should make a greater commitment to the program, this may have more to do with the uncertainty of administrative positions at the U. Athletic director Joel Maturi has a contract which expires in June 2012 and university president Robert Bruininks will be replaced by Eric Kaler this summer. It’s unclear if Kaler will renew Maturi’s contract.

If a timetable for this project is produced, it will undoubtedly prove to Smith the university’s commitment to the program. This is why I believe Tubby made these remarks.

However, Tubby’s comments come at a questionable time as the Gophers lost 10 of their last 11 games this year, missing out on both the NCAA and NIT tournaments for the first time under Smith. “We’ve done our part” doesn’t quite cut it with Gopher fans. The team must show it can win consistently year-after-year, even if one of its stars gets injured.  

Smith may feel that a practice facility would improve the team in the long run, but that is no guarantee. Sure, it could help recruiting, but so could a national championship.  

With three years left on his contract, Maturi said the university will have to persuade Smith to sign a new contract without knowing when the practice facility will come to fruition, writes Fuller.

Smith must realize the more the Gophers basketball team accomplishes, the easier it will be to make his practice facility a reality.