His tenure has been marred by distractions, injuries and non-sense. Sure, a lot of what has gone wrong for the Minnesota Golden Gophers program over the last 6 years is not to be blamed on Tubby Smith. But certainly, a little bit has to be. Smith came to the University of Minnesota with ultimate fanfare. Most surrounding campus assumed it would only be a few years until the Gophers would be back competing for conference championships.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Smith has endured major injuries, untimely transfers, academic trouble and players that have had run-ins with the law. Assistant coach Saul Smith, Tubby’s own son, being the most recent victim (last month’s DUI). Smith escaped Kentucky at a tenuous time; most fans in Lexington had lost support for the coach who had brought them an NCAA title in 1998. Nine years later after his title, Smith had failed to lead the Wildcats back to another Final Four. Such demands are not commonplace among most institutions, but Kentucky is a different animal.
Tubby ended up in Minnesota in March of 2007, where I’m sure he assumed his troubles on the court would be his only problem. Wrong.
His prized recruit in 2009, Royce White, plead guilty to disorderly conduct and theft, leading to his eventual departure from the program. Devoe Joseph, Colton Iverson and most recently Chip Armelin have transferred. Trevor Mbakwe dealt with legal trouble for a few seasons before going down with a torn ACL last season, derailing the team’s hopes for a return to the NCAA tournament. Tournament you ask? Smith has yet to advance out of the first round since arriving in the Twin Cities.
It’s a new year for the Gophers. They are 1-0 after beating American 72-36, Mbakwe is back, and expectations are higher than they have been since Clem Haskins was in town. On paper the Gophers are a team that should scare people. They boast depth, quickness, athleticism and leadership. Fans have seen this same story cued up before, but the ending seems to always take a turn for the worse. This years team is widely regarded to be Smith’s most talented since arriving in 2007, it would be fun to see what Tubby can finally do, if all goes according to plan.