Thursday, May 27, 2010

And the award for the worst offseason goes to...

Its has to be Tubby Smith, right?

First, it the disintegration of his roster.

Royce White, arguably the most highly touted recruit Tubby has landed at Minnesota, has dealt with legal issues since he arrived on campus and likely will not be on the team next season. Trevor Mbakwe, another big forward with legal problems, is eyeing a transfer as well and may never suit up for the Gophers. Junior Paul Carter has transferred to Illinois-Chicago. Freshman Justin Cobbs is headed back to Cal to continue his career on the west coast.

Lawrence Westbrook, Damian Johnson, and Devron Bostick all graduated, while Al Nolen, a junior, missed the second semester last season as a result of poor academics.

That is quite a bit of overhaul for a team that many considered to be on the brink of competing for a conference title prior to the start of last season.

Its gets worse for Tubby.

Yesterday, a jury award Jimmy Williams $1.25 million for an aborted hiring at Minnesota. You see, back in 1986, Williams was suspended for two years by the NCAA after getting caught handing out illegal financial aid to a couple of players while he was an assistant at Minnesota. Tubby didn't realize this, and made Williams believe he had a position with the Gophers in 2007. Williams quit his job at Oklahoma State and put his house on the market, only to have Minnesota AD Joel Maturi rescind the offer.

For a program with as many black eyes as Minnesota basketball has, this is another hit they didn't need.

Jim Souhan, a columnist for the Star Tribune, ripped Tubby and Maturi:

The hiring of Smith, even if it was really Smith doing the hiring, offered the promise of on-court success without embarrassment, the promise of clean victories and a classy power coach in whom we could believe.

It turns out Smith looks better on paper than in person. His résumé is impeccable. His work in Dinkytown is spotty.

Smith has returned the basketball program to relevance, and to the NCAA tournament. He has not, however, become the ambassador for the program or the university that we assumed he would be. He has not been as visible or as charming as many of us expected.

His program might have already peaked. And, in the attempted hiring of Williams, he did so little due diligence that he didn't know about Williams' past involvement in scandals.
While I don't necessarily agree with what Souhan is saying, that's not the point.

The point is that the local media, the guys you want in your corner in case something like this happens, seemingly has already turned on Tubby.

I think Smith is an excellent basketball coach. I think that he can make this Minnesota program into one that competes in the Big Ten. Hell, if he had his whole team this year, they very well could have competed this season.

But the way this offseason is going, it may be a while before the Gophers get back to that point.

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