I find myself in a strange crossroads of the Minnesota Golden Gophers firing Tubby Smith story. I get it, I really do. Minnesota no longer wants to be a bad-to-mediocre basketball program. The university feels like they can be a dominant force in the world of college hoops. However, there is another side to this story–yeah, that delusional side in which Minnesota has never been relevant in the basketball; never.
The only successes Minnesota has had in the past two decades, that have not been vacated, have come in the Smith era. Not only did Smith lead the Golden Gophers to three NCAA Tournament appearances (equal amount of trips as the previous 30 years in Minnesota lore), he gave the program its first tournament win since 1990.
Considering that Minnesota has a long history of impudence in basketball, I can’t help but to think about what they feel like they actually bring to the table. What does the university offer a coach that makes them such a destination spot for high-profile names? It can’t be that lovely winter weather, the proud non-existent tradition or the now humorously high expectations for a program that has never mattered.
I can only imagine the pitch to a potential coach now, “Hey coach X. Listen, here is why we think you would be a great fit for out program. We will offer you roughly the same amount of coin that you already make, you will get to live in frigid weather, come under increased pressure due to our unreasonable expectations that are based off of nothing and most importantly, we will make sure to blame only you for whatever failures hit the program.”
Sounds delusional, right? If you do not believe me, just head on over to one of the team’s message boards. There you will find a slew of lunatics talking about going after Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens. As if the Minnesota program actually has something better to offer than the two schools those coaches already work at. It is if the world in which a Golden Gopher fan lives has people receiving lollipops instead of speeding tickets and instead of jobs, they all chip in at the local Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.
The last time I talked about Smith’s then rumored demise with the program, I called it a joke. No quicker than Minnesota fired Smith after their tourney run ended, I received a bunch of emails telling me why I expletive stink and how the Golden Gopher program was (somehow) above having a coach who has won a National Title.
The only assumption other than lunacy that can be had is that Norwood Teague has a huge name already lined-up. I mean, they would not be stupid enough to fire a National Title winner without having an impressive coach to replace him. Word on the mean streets of college reporting has stated that Flip Saunders is a name heavily being tossed around. Because, you know, a coach who will cost more than Smith, is as old, has no track record of success in college, will at best be as successful as Smith and will only work there for a max of four years is definitely an upgrade.
Really Minnesota fans, I kind of get it. You guys want to be special and elevate your program to an elite level. But in all seriousness, when did you start looking in the mirror and start seeing Brad Pitt instead of seeing what you really look like, Vincent Schiavelli (Yes, Google him)?