Saturday, June 30, 2007

Off To The Ballpark

I've been inviited to take in tonight's baseball game in Pittsburgh. It's not the most exciting matchup, Pirates vs. Nationals, but the park does look beautiful. And now I read fans are planning a walk out to protest Pitsburgh Pirates ownership. Should be entertaining. I'll be back Sunday night. I think I'll take the walk out as an opportunity to upgrade my seats!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Gopher Football Preview

In my continuing effort to provide Minnesota football previews as they are written, here is a balanced take on the challenges facing Tim Brewster.

The New Era Scouting blog writes:

Can Minnesota’s play on the field match new coach Tim Brewster’s energy? Brewster has spent the offseason infusing hope amongst fans, but the Gophers may be quite some time away from the new coach’s goal of the Rose Bowl.

I'll continue to provide takes like these as I find them. I'm trying to take in as many football previews as possible to prepare to write my own Minnesota football preview. PJS' friends at Hawkeye State have asked that I draft a Minnesota football preview to go along with other blogger previews from around the conference.

Pulling Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

For those Gopher fans worried about Tim Brewster's coaching ability, look no further than the video below as one reason to be relieved that somebody, anybody other than Glen Mason will be walking the sidelines in 2007. If Brewster does nothing else, hopefully he will not pull defeat from the jaws of victory, something his predecessor was great at.

The video, a compilation of the 2006 Insight Bowl, includes the halftime speech of Texas Tech's coach. I wonder what Mason said?

A hat-tip to Double-T-Nation for finding the video.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Brewer Good, McHale Bad

With Ndudi Ebi apparently unavailable, the Minnesota Timberwolves, guided still by GM Kevin McHale, selected Corey Brewer with its lottery pick today.

I was partially hoping for the Timberpuppies to select Spencer Hawes or Joakim Noah so I could rip the pick and call for McHale to be fired. I'll have to settle for for calling for McHale's dismissal for failing to win with Kevin Garnett, the Joe Smith obsession, the Ebi selection among many other boneheaded moves.

I kindly ask Glen Taylor to Fire McHale Now!

For the record, I very much like the Brewer selection, but I'm assuming/hoping Fred Hoiberg has taken over basketball operations and McHale is around only to be the fall guy when the Wolves trade Garnett for a pittance of his value.

And for those new to McHale's genius, Ebi was selected with the No. 26 pick in the 2003 draft, ahead of Josh Howard, among others.

Green Won't Help Tubby Fill Out 2008 Class

According to published reports, Draymond Green has picked Michigan State.

This is unfortunate, albeit expected, news for Minnesota fans who were hoping Green would follow Tubby Smith to the maroon and gold. Green, the #78 player in the Class of 2008 according to Rivals, had given a verbal to Tubby at Kentucky. He withdrew that commitment when Tubby left the commonwealth.

One thing to note here is that according to the Green signing wraps up the Spartans' 2008 recruiting class. That enables Tom Izzo and company to begin concentrating on 2009. Tubby Smith has not come close to finishing off his 2008 class. The only Minnesota committ at this point is Texas point guard Nathen Garth.

If my tally is right, that leaves 4 available scholarships for Tubby's 2008 class--his first class in Minnesota.

Tubby has offered two four-star shooting guards in Oak Grove, Ill. prospect Iman Shumpert and Devoe Joseph of Ontario, Canada.

Shumpert is being heavily recruited from some heavyweights, and has offers from Marquette, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech. Shumpert has also expressed interest in Duke and Illinois, according to Rivals, but those schools haven't yet offered the shooting guard.

The Gophers would seem to have better odds at landing Joseph, the 22nd best 2008 shooting guard according to Rivals. He currently has offers from Duquesne, Washington St, Santa Clara, Fairfield and other mid-majors.

Rivlas lists four power forwards as having received offers from Minnesota. But two of those can be crossed off the list. Green is now headed to MSU, and Andrew Brommer, who once verbaled Dan Monson, was apparently told he wasn't in Tubby's plans.

The highest ranked PF propsect that has received a Minny offer is Eloy Vargas, a Rivals 4-star player ranked at #17 in the country at his position. Hes 6-10, 210 pounds for Hollywood, Florida. But Vargas indicates he has 'high' interest in Pittsburgh, which has offered. And the competition for Vargas is steep, with the Gophers in a recruiting battle here with Louisville, Clemson, Texas A&M and Miami. Vargas also indicates interst in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio State, but according to Rivals, those schools haven't offered.

Assuming Vargas does indeed head to Pittsburgh, that leaves Robert Eppinger, originally from Minneapolis, who is playing for Indian Hills Community College. At 6-8, 240 pounts, Eppinger would defintley have some weight to throw aronud. Fresno State and Seton Hall are also in the market for his services.

At center, where the Gophers will have to find a way to replace Spencer Tollackson, the Gophers have already missed out on the state's top propsect--Princeton's Jared Berggren--who is headed to the evil neighbors coached by Bo Ryan.

The only other center Minnesota has offered for 2008 is Duluth, Ga. prospect Ralph Sampson III. Tubby was high on Sampson before the son of a legend began to surface as a high-major prospect.

Tubby may have a leg up on the Class of 2009, where some local kids may opt for Minnesota. But landing Rodney Williams and Royce White will be a lot easier if Tubby has a solid 2008 class.

And there's plenty of work to be done before that happens.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bad Recruiting News On The Horizon

As commenter cyclonejohn notes in the previous thread, Gopher fans will in all liklihood have to swallow a bitter recruiting pill tomorrow when Sagniaw, Mich. power forward Draymond Green opts against coming to the Twin Cities to play for Tubby Smith.

Green, you may remember, verbally committed to Tubby at Kentucky but later pulled back from his pledge when the new Gophers coach bolted from the bluegrass state. Minneapolis and St. Paul columnists suggested that Green would follow Tubby to Minnesota, and that to increase those odds, Tubby and the U would offer Green's high school coach an admiistrative position with the program. None of that happened and Minnesota isn't listed in Green's top 3. He has a presser set for Thursday to make his decision between Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana.

Accoding to Rivals, Green is the 78th ranked player in the 2008 recruiting class. He could have been an integral part in changing the direction of the men's basketball program.

I've had an email back-and-forth with a couple 'Tubby is a Savior' types who suggest that this development isn't of much concern. It's early on in the 2008 recruiting wars, they argue, and Green is just one of many talents Tubby has been after.

I can't argue with those points. But this does mark the first recruiting loss Tubby Smith has endured as head man of the maroon and gold. I believe it's best to withhold judgment on Tubby's extremely important 2008 class until a few more targets have made verbals.

But I do find one item disconcerting about Green's recruitment, which I will share with you after a outquote from the Detriot News.

Green is a 6-foot-7 forward who was the lone underclassman to be selected to The Detroit News Dream Team last season. Green averaged 22.5 points and scored 27 in Saginaw's 79-57 victory over Detroit Redford in the Class A state championship.

Saginaw coach Lou Dawkins said Green has made unofficial visits to U-M, MSU and Indiana, and the three Big Ten schools are at the top of Green's list. Dawkins said Green might make another unofficial visit to Michigan today.

"These are the schools who have been after him the hardest," Dawkins said. "By (tonight) he'll decide. If not, then he might make it when he wakes up Thursday."

Descriptions from all around the recruiting world were positive on Green. And writers in Minnesota looked at the Michigan standout as player who could elevate Tubby's 2008 class. What worries me is the quote given to the Detriot News by Dawkins, suggesting that Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana have been after Green "the hardest."

That, after all, was one of the knocks on Tubby in Kentucky, that he was outworked by his competition.

We know that Green was ready to play for Tubby at Kentucky. So, it's more likely Green preferred Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State to Minnesota, than it is his decision is a referendum on Tubby's recruiting.

And while it's far too early to judge Tubby's 2008 recruiting class, I don't like reading three Big 10 schools recruited a coveted recruit harder than we did.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bucky Wins A Battle; First Bad News For Brewster

First it was Matt Scott, a dual-threat quarterback out of California that Tim Brewster and Mike Dunbar were recruiting to come play Gopher football. Scott, while he said great things about Minnesota, picked Arizona. Now, Cretin-Derham Hall's Joe Schafer opted against suiting up for the fiery Brewster. His choice is more troubling: Wisconsin.

Schafer is ranked as the 4th best player in Minnnesota's class of 2008, according to Rivals, and is a 6-5 265-pound offensive lineman, ranked as the No. 38 OT prospect in the country. Rivals has it's write-up here ($). The Schafer-to-Wisconsin news is bad for Minnesota football and ends Brewster's aim to keep every Minnesota kid home.

While that may have been an impossible goal, fans were expecting Brewster to at least bring home the state's top prospects. A recent Associated Press article highlighted Brewster's expectations.

In May, Brewster and his assistant coaches made sure one of them stopped by each of the state's nearly 400 high schools. Brewster personally visited more than 100.

"If a kid is deciding between Wisconsin and Minnesota, I expect the high-school coach to step in and help us get that kid ..."

Recruiting, after all, was supposed to be Brewster's strong suit. And, while the loss of Schafer isn't enough to argue Brewster isn't living up to the hype, it's a discouraging development. Schafer is the first in-state recruit that Brewster wanted who decided to go elsewhere, never mind to a school that has harvested Minnesota talent for too long. Hopefully the Schafer committment is a one-time fluke, and not a trend.

The decision of Scott to attend Arizona is troubling in a different way. He was the quarterback that new offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar was trying to land. An Arizona Daily Star article suggests that Minnesota was the toughest competition in landing Scott, and compares Scott's style at quarterback to Vince Young. While there has been no word from Scott about why he picked Arizona after gushing about Minnesota, there is an obvious reason.

Perhaps the biggest coup for Minnesota in the Brewster hiring, was that son Clint, a 4-star QB who was headed to Illinois, decided to follow his father. Clint Brewster could very well compete this year with Tony Mortensen and Adam Weber. Time will tell, but it would seem that recruiting quarterbacks might be difficult for Brewster until it is proven that the field will be even for playing time.

If Minnesota has trouble landing quarterback prospects during the next two years, it will be in part because of Clint Brewster's presence.

Tim Brewster's 2008 recruiting class has been strong. But it's far from over. The loss of Schafer and Scott don't doom Brewster. While we can forgive the loss of a California quarterback, losing many more Minnesota kids to the next door neighbor will be harder to swallow. Brewster's first test was to deliver the top three Minnesota players. Schafer, Michael Floyd and Wllie Mobley. Two-for-three wouldn't be bad.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wolves Need To Trade KG

Kevin Garnett has been called one of the NBA's most over rated superstars. I'm not going to go that far, but it's clear that Kevin Garnett is not capable of carrying a team by himself. To win, KG needs scorers surroudning him. And in only one season, with Latrell Spreewell and Sam Cassell, has KG managed to win a playoff series.

For the future of the Timberwolves organization, Garnett needs to go, and GM Kevin McHale can follow him out the door. With all of the recent rumors that Garnett is headed to Boston or Phoneix, a trade now is not only a good idea, it's necessary. Should the T'Wolves hold on to Garnett, he almost certainly bolts after next year, leaving us with nothing in exchange for him.

Kevin McHale is in posiiton to make the trade, and while the majority of Wolves fans will hate him more for the move, it's the right thing to do. If Garnett draws a king's ransom, like Boston apparently offered with Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, the #5 pick, and other considerations, then rebuilding is the best route to go. Allowing McHale to trade Garnett also gives owner Glen Taylor the chance to push McHale out. If McHale can't win with KG, then why trust him going forward? Taylor would be in the clear if he jettisoned McHale.

This isn't to say I want Garnett to leave. His passion, desire and intensity make the Timberwolves a joy to watch--on some nights--in an otherwise dreary NBA. But Garnett's detractors make good points: he's not a great scorer, he can't score in the clutch, he doesn't have a go-to move, he has trouble creating his own offense, and he can't leave a team.

I agree with all of those arguments, but also think he's a one-of-a-kind player. He does everything, and he does it all well. Whoever gets KG will be better off, but I think the Wolves, too, will eventually benefit from trading the franchise's first superstar.

And with KG gone, more media attention in Minnesota will be pointed towards Tubby Smith and company. And that would be a blessing.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Day Off

The significant other wants to get out of the house this evening, so no new posts will be up until Saturday afternoon at the earliest, when I will make an argument for the T'Wolves to part ways with Kevin Garnett. Until then, I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Random Tidbits Of Varying Importance

Subjects: That weird band of tubes called the Internet, Pitt's new logo, Draymond Green, Ralph Sampson III and asssorted other pleasantries.

** College football coaches apparently don't like the intricate and confusing Internet thing. Some of us read in Patrick Reusse's recent column that Coach Tim Brewster says he doesn't read the Internet. But Coach Brew isn't the only one. Check out The Feed, which has your up-to-date list of coaches who are distancing themselves from the band of tubes. Bobby Bowden and Joe Tiller make appearances. And Bob Stoops has gotten involved in an illegal Internet pyrarmid scheme. Oops! Maybe it is best to stay away. You never know what you might get in the crazy, unpredictable world of the Internet.

** GopherNation has post #2 up of an eight part serieson the new Golden Gopher era. This chapter discusses what to expect from Coach Brewster and how he should be graded. I agree with the blog's assessment that Brewster will be judged on his recruiting first and that any on-field setbacks will be ultimately blamed on 'Mason's players.' Money line:

This is his honeymoon season. If he overachieves to a 9-3 or 8-4 record then they'll start erecting a bronze statue to be ready in 2009 (Brewster Field at TCF Stadium). If he stumbles by losing to one of their less talented non-conference foes or only win 1 or 2 Big Ten games then it is because he has Mason's recruits. I can already see Sid explaining that you can't run the spread offense with Mason's "pound the rock" kids.
I completely agree. Gopher fans have been wowed by Brewster, and may likely give him a pass if he puts out a Mason-like mediocre season, if he delivers in the recruiting wars.

** Minnesota basketball recruit Draymond Green, who verbally committed to Tubby Smith at Kentucky but withdrew when the coach headed north, isn't sure what to make of UK's interest at this point. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Green communicates a little with UK but not enough to gauge their interest. The Saginaw, Mich. power forward is making unofficial visits to Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan in the coming weeks/days. Green is one of many potential 2008 recruits who would make turning around Minnesota basketball a reality.

** Another recruit many Gopher fans would like to see suit up at The Barn in 2008 is Ralph Sampson III. Tubby Smith has been in contact with Sampson, who, along with his younger brother Robert, were together at a basketball camp in Charlottesville, Va. this week. A local NBC affiliate has video here of the camp, focusing on the Sampson brothers and their father, the famous UVA alum.

The Charlottesville Daily Progress was also on hand for the camp. It remains to be seen, the paper reports, whether Dave Leitao's Virginia Cavilliers will ask the younger Sampsons to follow in their father's footsteps.

Whether that’s enough to attract an offer from Virginia isn’t clear, but it would be welcome from Ralph III, who said that the notion of following in his father’s rather large footsteps doesn’t bother him one bit.

“I have interest in any school recruiting me at this point,” Ralph III said. “The door’s wide open right now. I’m trying to gather information to see who’s interested in me then make a well-informed decision later on.”

He said he is looking for a good academic school that has a competitive basketball program, that has a family-like atmosphere, so that he can get the full college experience.

With that criteria, the Gophers would seem to have a good shot. Tubby's always been praised for a family-like atmosphere and the U is a good academic school. At this point, Minnesota and Georgia Tech are the highest profile schools who have offered Ralph III.

** The Pitt Panthers have a new logo apparently. The most apt description of the logo comes from Penn State's Black Shoe Diaries: "it kind of looks like a rabid dog crossed with a ticked off cat." The logo is pictued above. Cute little Cujo isn't it?

** I'm trying not to talk politics here even though it's the day job .... but .... this video on Hillary Clinton's Web site is great, if you are a fan of The Sopranos. Just skip past the registration page to get to the video.

Big Ten Network's Minnesota Football Preview

Found this 3-plus minute video today from the Big Ten Network previewing the Minnesota football season. Thought I'd pass it along. It includes Coach Tim Brewster's requisite positivity and chats with Amir Pinnix, Tony Mortensen and former backs Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney, among others.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Tubby And Saul Smith Story

For those of us in Gopher Nation hoping Kentucky fans would quit harping on national title winner Tubby Smith, quit dreaming.

The Kentucky blogosphere--which dominates the UofM blogosphere by comparison--reacted this week over Tubby Smith's decision to hire his son, Saul, as an assistant coach. An article penned by the Pioneer Press' Marcus Fuller set off a series of rants that suggest the hiring of Saul as an assistant was Tubby's motive in taking the Gophers gig.

The excellent Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue makes a compelling argument. It's an argument I tend to agree with.

There were two other factors that most of us (well, at least me) failed to recognize: Smith's family ties and his son's move to coaching. Almost every UK fan knows that Tubby Smith is a huge family man. His entire coaching culture at UK was built around the family model, often to the frustration of some fans. Most of us were at least peripherally aware that Saul Smith was moving into coaching, following his father. These two factors, in my opinion, provided the strongest motivation for Tubby to leave UK.

Saul Smith would never have been accepted as an assistant coach here. Never. And Tubby unquestionably knew this. Smith wanted to mentor his son in coaching, just like he did when Saul played at UK, but that avenue was forever closed to him while he was at Kentucky. Even another national championship (an unlikely happenstance given the direction of the program) would not have provided him with the necessary political capital to hire his son as an assistant here.

Enter Minnesota with an offer on par with what UK was paying Smith. Now, Tubby could go to UM, hire his son, and as a bonus, remove all those little indignities he had been suffering over the years -- all for a very small pay cut. Tubby is not a young man anymore, and he knows more of his coaching days are behind him than ahead of him."
Others have weighed in on this theory as well, including Ryan Ferguson at The Fanhouse. He writes:
When Smith left Lexington in sudden, dramatic fashion -- practically disappearing overnight with no notice given -- one of the first real comments pried from the coach's mouth had to do with "standing with your people." Then, Smith's assistant coaches failed to make the trek with him to Minneapolis, making one wonder what the hell Smith was talking about.

But when you take his son into account, it makes a lot more sense. ... Saul Smith would never have been accepted at Kentucky because he represented a sad and painful period for Kentucky basketball. He was also at the center of the schism between Smith and UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart. For Tubby to take care of family matters first, he had to leave Kentucky. And it might have been the best possible decision for all involved.
Now, if you're anything like me, you don't much care what Kentucky fans think of Tubby Smith now that he dons maroon and gold. But the question is, what do Minnesota fans think about bringing in an otherwise unqualified assistant for the men's basketball team? Are we OK with that hire?

Much of the Minnesota fanbase right now will not come close to criticizing Tubby Smith, AD Joel Maturi or the men's basketball program. It's optimisim time. I'm optimistic too, but that doesn't mean I support the hiring of Saul Smith because he's Tubby's son. And if the Kentucky faithful are right, and Tubby picked Minnesota because he knew--or was promised--he would be able to teach Saul the business, what then?

Nepotism, I think we can agree, is never a good thing. But, at least so far, it seems Minnesota fans are willing to accept it in order to have a high-profile coach take over the spiraling men's basketball program.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Scandal Update: Brewster Says He Didn't Call Weis Fat, Etc...

The Star Tribune picked up on an item I relayed to you last week regarding the strange allegations made at a Notre Dame forum that Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster had some harsh things to say about Charlie Weis. Patrick Reusse wrote the following:

Brewster denies Weis rip
Someone called MNIrish posted on a Notre Dame fans' website a summary of an alleged conversation with Gophers football coach Tim Brewster. According to MNIrish, he met Brewster at a "meet and greet" at an apartment building in which they both were living.

The Notre Damer said Brewster gave a sales pitch to the gathering and repeatedly said: "We need to keep Minnesota players in Minnesota." According to MNIrish, he approached Brewster later, said he was from Notre Dame and the Irish might be recruiting the same Minnesota players.

"Brewster basically went off on me, saying how sick he was of Notre Dame and our arrogance ... and our fear of playing Minnesota in the new stadium," wrote MNIrish. "When I told him ... it was our athletic director who wouldn't budge the schedule, he went off on [coach Charlie] Weis."

MNIrish contended that, among other things, Brewster said Notre Dame could never recruit another Minnesota player "until Weis was under 350 pounds."

The gist of this posting was e-mailed to Brewster and he was asked if this conversation had taken place. Brewster's response was:

"I may be a first-time head coach, but the info in that e-mail is ridiculous. Charlie is a good friend of mine. There is a good reason why I don't read the Internet."

That last part contradicts that Brewster is basically an Internet addict, looking for recruiting and other college football news.

For a full description of what MN Irish suggests Brewster said, check out my previous post on the matter. I was wondering when someone would make Brewster go on the record denying these allegations. Kudos to Patrick Reusse for asking the question. I also find it humorous that Reusse suggessts Brewster is lying about his Internet usage. In the end, I'm glad Brewster denied saying these things. And although I find it somewhat entertaining, it's probably not good form to bash a well-respected coach when you have zero wins under your belt.

This likely ends the first scandal of Brewster's tenure, unless of course MN Irish has an audio recording???

UPDATE: In a comment left Tuesday evening on my previous post on the Brewster/Weis scandal, MNIrish weighed in. He wrote:

I'm not making it up! I was honestly just trying to joke with him as a conversation starter, knowing that coaches can't comment on specific players,but can talk about a school (ie Cretin-Derham). As a Minnesotan, the U of M is my second favorite program, and I have been impressed with Brewster from the start. I actually debated about whether to post my encounter, chalking it up to a bad day for the coach, but now for him to say Weis is a good friend? Unbelievable, from what I heard from his mouth. My feelings aren't hurt, I know a lot of people don't like Notre Dame, but we like Weis and don't think he is a disgrace by any means. And he doesn't deserve to be berated like that.
Thanks for weighing in, MNIrish.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Covering University Of Minnesota Sports

The announcement at the Gopher Hole that the STrib's longtime Gophers basketball beat writer Jeff Shelman is moving on to another endeavor gives me the opportunity to talk about the coverage our two local periodicals lend big-time sports at the U.

To be kind--and this isn't an attack on Shelman, who I've enjoyed reading for a long time--I've felt Gophers sports coverage has been lacking.

The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press sports staffs have daunting tasks. On any given day they have to deal with the Vikings, Twins, T'Wolves, Wild, Saints, Gophers football, basketball, baseball, hockey, men's and women's this and that, other small colleges, high school sports that demand coverage and an expanding AAU scene. Getting everything in a tightening news hole is a daunting challenge. Ad revenue is declining. Papers are being run these days by corporations interested only in the bottom line, not in providing a service.

As someone who works in print journalism, I try to understand the choices our periodicals make. But as the Star Tribune endures a hefty reshuffling, I hope they will take the time to make more choices in sports coverage.

The odd man out usually has been Gophers football and basketball. The papers will jump on the bandwagon, as they did with Janelle McCarville and Lindsey Whalen a few years ago, and Bobby Jackson and Sam Jacobsen in the late 90's. But day-to-day coverage of even men's basketball and football is sparse. On most days, the only printed items on major U of M sports comes from Charley Walters and Sid Hartman.

And don't think that college coaches from cities like East Lansing, Ann Arbor, South Bend and Columbus don't see this as an advantage. In those towns, the college athlete is the star. The college athlete is the toast of the town, not the NHL or NBA multi-millionaire. Now, there is nothing the STrib and PiPress can do to change that. They must cover the Vikings, Twins, Wild and T'Wolves. But, in my opinion, they need to cover those sports more efficiently and lend more space to big-time college sports. And because actual print space in the paper's hard copy is declining, the STrib and PiPress ought to do a better job providing information online.

Let's take the recent story by the STrib's Chip Scoggins on Brewster's football camp as an example. The article is essentially five paragraphs and tells us that Brewster is holding a camp, mentions four names who will be in attendance and adds a random quote talking about why camp is important. Scoggins wrote this story, it would seem, for a news hole. His editor probably told him he had 10 inches, or 400 words of space. Even if Scoggins had more information that diehards want, it wasn't included in the print or online editions. The Internet, these editors need to learn, is the future of newspapers. The online product shouldn't be dictated by hard copy space limitations.

Scoggins could have, had his editors asked, given us far more to digest online. Instead, the STrib loses readers to a pay service like Rivals, where many Gopher fans seeking information go--and pay these days--for the best recruiting information.

And then there is the choices the newspaper editors make. A quick look at the STrib's Gophers page--which includes links to additional Vikings information but not Gophers--illustrates my point. Today, as one scrolls down and looks through the online offerings, a reader gets far more coverage on non-revenue college sports than might be necessary. Stories on golf, baseball and track dominate the page.

While those sports deserve some coverage, and their seasons were winding down, the majority of readers don't go to the STrib for college golf or track coverage. And while it may anger those involved in the programs, for the good of the paper, and to appease the majority of its readership, I'd like to see the STrib and PiPress make better choices. And by that, I mean more men's basketball, football and hockey.

I'll miss Jeff Shelman's work as the Gophers men's hoops beat writer. But I hope his move to the STrib's metro section gives sports editors and the new beat writer a chance to review its coverage.

The lack of coverage is one of the reasons I started this Web site. At some point I might actually report here, instead of offering opinion, insight and the occassional gossip. I'm partially hoping that will never be necessary and our local periodicals step up to the task.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Quick Hitters

Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press has a couple quick tidbits in his column of tidbits today on Gophers sports.

** As I discussed below in a profile of Everett Withers, the new defensive coordinator is known for coaching an attacking-style of defense. Walters writes: "Look for the Gophers football team to blitz more next season than it has the past five years."

** Another topic that has been discussed here at length is the Gophers football schedule. Walters suggests that when the U's contract with North Dakota State runs out at the end of the year, the Gophers would like to add Nebraska or UCLA to the schedule. Joel Maturi might not like that, however.

The Star Tribune's own wacky columnist--Sid Hartman--has information on Brewster's football camp.

** For rabid Gophers fans, it isn't news that a slew of talent was in Minneapolis this weekend. The coaching staff hasn't been able to secure any commitments, but Hartman believes some blue-chippers will commit. The top in-state talent was on hand--including Cretin-Derham Hall's Michael Floyd, among others--as well as some outstanding talent from aroud the country., which on a daily basis provides the best coverage of Gophers recruiting, suggests that dual-threat quarterback Matt Scott of California may be close to committing. In a subscription only article, Rivals explains that Scott and his family were enamored with Minnesota. Scott, a three-star QB who is ranked #8 in the country as a dual-threat QB, has offers from Minnesota, California, Arizona and Boise State. He's off to Boise State next to check out that sweet blue turf.

** Other national recruits were also in town according to Sid. He provides the following list: Brandon Green and quarterbacks Jonny Johnson and Alex Haan from Chicago; safety Craig Loston and quarterback Darron Thomas from Texas; tight end Kaleb Ramsey of Pennsylvania.

Green, a four-star wide receiver, has also talkled highly of the Gophers. Landing Floyd and Green would be a coup for Brewster and offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar's spread offense.

** If you're in the mood for a fluff piece on Saul Smith and his father Tubby Smith on Father's Day, Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press has what you're looking for.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Everett Withers: A Closer Look

The new University of Minnesota defensive coordinator has his work cut out for him. Last season, the Gophers defense ranked near the bottom of college football.

The Gophers were:

86th in scoring defense at 26 pts/gm
113th in overall defense at 426 yds/gm
92nd in rushing defense at 158 yds/gm
117th in passing defense at 268 yds/gm

Most Gopher fans remember the shocking comeback Texas Tech made against the Gophers last December. It's the job of new coordinator Everett Withers to turn those numbers--and the sometimes painful results--around.

Withers comes to the Gophers with an excellent track record. He spent the last five years as defensive back's coach with Jeff Fisher and the Tennessee Titans. Before that, Withers was at the University of Texas where he held the same position. Withers also has had a chance to run his own defense during a stint at Louisville from 1995-97. So, what to expect from Withers?

According to CBS Sportsline, Withers' philosophy is to get after it on defense.

His philosophy is the roughly the same as an angry pit bull: attack, attack, attack.
And he's had success doing it. In 1996, at Louisville, Withers had the Cardinals defense ranked fouth nationally in both total defense and rushing defense. That team gave up 235.8 yards per game and 81.1 on the ground. That same team also forced 41 turnovers, good enough to lead the NCAA.

And it was at Louisville where Withers began an encouraging stretch of developing talent. With the Cardinals, Withers helped bring along Sam Madison, who has turned into an All-Pro with the Miami Dolphins. And with Mack Brown at Texas, Withers brought along another familiar name.

At Texas, Withers helped develop cornerback Quentin Jammer into one of the Big 12's best defensive backs and helped ease redshirt freshman Dakarai Pearson into a starting role at safety.
And in Tennessee, Withers has helped Chris Hope, Tank Williams, Kevin Dyson, Adam "Pac Man" Jones and Lance Schulters, among others, progress. At Lousiville, Texas and Tennessee, Withers has improved the product he was responsible for.

During his last season in Texas, Withers had the Longhorns ranked best in the coutnry in pass efficiency defense, holding opponents to a 45 percent completion rate.

Withers guided a Longhorns secondary which ranked 75th in the nation in pass defense in 1997 (132.7 efficiency rating) to first in the nation in 2000 (88.02). Withers is credited with helping a young corps of defensive backs improve in a number of statistical categories after becoming familiar with the pro-style man-coverage philosophy.
Withers continued his success in the NFL:

From 2002-04, Withers helped the Titans defense tally 57 interceptions, which was the most for the franchise over a three-year period since 1993-95. The 57 interceptions also ranked fourth in the AFC and eighth overall during that time. The Titans totaled 21 picks in 2004, including 16 by the secondary. In 2002, Withers directed a revamped secondary that added safeties Lance Schulters and rookie Tank Williams. The new arrangement helped the defense earn a top 10 ranking and Schulters’ six interceptions were the most by a Titans safety since 1993. Withers also developed Andre Dyson into a starting player as a rookie in 2001 and helped him total 16 interceptions during his four-year Titan career, including six his final season.
Gopher fans shouldn't expect an instant turn around. While Glen Mason didn't leave the cupboard bare exactly, the 2007 defense will need to learn a new attacking philosophy. And for Withers to succeed in Minnesota as he did at Louisville and Texas, he'll need the same type of players. Brewster and the Minnesota recruiters have helped that process by getting landing some early committs for the 2008 class.

Brewster coached with Withers at Texas and seems to be willing to hand over day-to-day defensive duties to the well-traveled coach. Brewster has given Mike Dunbar control of the offense, and his comments to an interview with the U's Goal Line Club, it appears he'll do the same with Withers. Brewster said:

He is a man who I have been able to put into a leadership position. He has deserved to be in a leadership position for a long time, he just didn’t get theopportunity. I am giving him the opportunity
It would seem Withers is qualified for the opportunity in Minnesota. He has a coaching track record that might even surpass that of our head coach. He should have success turning aroud the oft-devastated Minnesota defense. He'll just need some talent to make it happen.

This was the fourth installment of PJS' look at new assistant coaches for Minnesota's football and basketball teams. Previously, we looked at offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar and basketball assistants Vince Taylor and Ron Jirsa. As promised, we're saving Saul Smith for last, because, well, nepotism isn't cool.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Things To Read Instead Of Talking To The Significant Other

Topics: Big Ten Football, Steve Alford's greasiness (is that a word?), Ohio State anger and a sexy link.

The Fighting Illini football team is 2-30 in the Big Ten since 2003. Ouch. And we thought Glen Mason was bad. Anyway, Sunday Morning Quarterback thinks our friends in Illinois will be improved in 2007.

In more serious Big Ten football news, Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner will miss the upcoming season to undergo treatments for brain cancer. Get well, Terry.

One of my favorite Big Ten bloggers is MGO Blog. I never know quite what I'm going to get when I go there. And that was the case today. With the offseason in full swing, MGO Blog took a break from football/basketball/baseball coverage to explain why the offisides rule in hockey needs to go. It's true, and a good read.

That other local basketball team made a trade this week, sending Mike James to Houston for Juwan Howard. I was never impressed with Mike James. Then again, Juwan Howard is 34, and the trade doesn't do much to get the bored Timberwolves fan interested. GM Kevin McHale, and I'm not sure why he still has a job, did indicate to the Star Tribune that other moves are coming. Hope so.

Think Ohio State fans are OK with losing to Florida in both the men's football and basketball championships? Think again. Warning: Kinda-sorta pornographic map of Florida at link.

Thank you, Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors.

Vegas Insider has Tim Brewster's troops as 125:1 to win the BCS title. Sweet. And over at The Wizard of Odds, Brew's Crew falls into the 'pretender' category.

In what appears to be the last post at Steve Alford's Hair Gel, the enjoyable Hawkeyes blog tells us of Alford's use of Iowa cars and its recruiting database after he resigned as coach. The Hair Gel author plans to start another blog soon, presumably with a new namesake. Steroid Nation also enjoyed Alford's attempt to rip off the University of Iowa. Choice line: "Oh yeah, Steve, when you resign, your former employer is not going to keep paying for your cell phone, chump. Sorry." I'm personally going to miss Alford, he successfully underperformed at Iowa.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tubby On Atlanta Radio

The most interesting tidbit from this is that Tubby Smith admits he has taken two NBA jobs in the past before changing his mind, much like Billy Donovan did with Orlando. Tubby declined to say for which NBA clubs he almost bolted Kentucky.

It doesn't sound like Gopher fans have to worry about a move to the pro ranks at this point. Tubby said "college basketball is where I belong."

Audio Here.

The majority of the 15 minute conversation centers around Tubby's time in Georgia and Kentucky and his flirtations with the NBA.

Brewster's First Test

The best public relations man in Minnesota, new Gophers coach Tim Brewster, is playing host this week to the state's top high school talent, as well as a smattering of athletes from around the country.

This is a big deal for Brewster, who has a chance to take his 2008 recruiting class up several notches. I've discussed previously that Brewster already has caught the eye of some recruiting analysts for his work in landing Sam Maresh, Kevan Walker and others. But much work is yet to be done.

With words, energy and a smile, Brewster seems to have convinced Gopher football fans that he is the man to take the team to higher levels. He's done this despite a total lack of big-time coaching experience (Denver Broncos tight ends coach, Texas/North Carolina recruiting ace). Eventually, Brewster will be judged on his performance. And the Class of 2008 will be his first test. Succeeding will depend a lot on keeping the local talent home.

Three Minnesota standouts--Cretin Deram Hall's Michael Floyd and Joe Shafer and Eden Prairie's Willie Mobley--have been or will be at Brewster's camp. Brewster needs to land two of the three to consider his 2008 class a success. And considering the Gophers are turning to a spread offense under Mike Dunbar, widely recruited wide receiver Floyd needs to anchor that class.

But others are in town too. Father and coach of Rivals 5-star wide receiver Deion Walker of Christchurch, Va. is in town helping out at Brewster's camp. According to Rivals (subscription), the elder Walker is impressed with the facilities and coaching staff. He told Rivals he and his son would be back soon for an unofficial visit. Walker (pictured) is 6-4 and runs a 4.43 40-yard-dash. But while his father says he likes the U, in this Rivals article, the younger Walker doesn't mention Minnesota. Other than Florida schools, the wide receiver says he plans to visit LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, OSU, Colorado, Nebraska, USC, Cal, Oregon, BC, UConn, Michigan, MSU, and Notre Dame.

While the 5-star Walker would be a coup, another high-level wideout plans to be in town as well. Again according to Rivals, which is bar none the best source for Gophers recruiting information, 4-star Robeson, Ill wide receiver Brandon Green is supposed to be in town for this weekend's camp. He's being recruited by every Big Ten school other than Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State and is ranked by Rivals as the 36th best receiver in the class.

There will be others around. Some will be high school kids trying to earn an offer from Brewster. Others will be watching Brewster and his coaching staff to determine if there is substance behind Minnesota's best PR man.

More on the three Minnesota boys:

Joe Shafer:Here is the type of player, while not flashy, that Brewster needs to keep home. At this point, it's pretty much between Minnesota and those pesky Badgers to the east. He's 6-5, 265 and would make a nice pacakage along with classmate Michael Floyd.

Michael Floyd:He's the young man that will immediately be able to make skeptical Gopher fans believe the "Tim Brewster is a recruiting genius rhetoric." Floyd is ranked by Rivals as the 8th best wideout in the coutnry, and he's being treated as such by recruiters. You name a big-time program and they are after Floyd. Florida? Check. Notre Dame? Check. Michigan, Ohio State and Miami? Check. He's more than tall enough, at 6'3, to exploit smaller corners. Make no mistake, Signing Floyd will cement the Gophers in the Top 20 recruiting classes nationwide.

Willie Mobley:This Eden Prairie defensive end may be less heralded than Floyd, but he's equally as important to Minnesota's future. One thing we can all agree on concerning the former regime is that Glen Mason's defense liked to bend and break. No lead was safe against any opponent. Recruits like Mobley, along with 4-star inside linebacker Sam Maresh of Champlin, Minn., who has already committed, will help Brewster turn the defense around. Mobley has some heavyweights--UCLA, Oklahoma and Ohio State--knocking on his door too. But according to Rivals, Mobley has been in constant contact with Minnesota coaches and has been around Brewster's camp this week on a daily basis. That should bode well for Brewster's chances.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'Punky' Brewster Says Weis is Fat, Etc....

I'm not going to make any judgments on this, considering I don't know the source or its accuracy. But the following post was made on a Notre Dame forum. If it's true, we've just seen a new side to Tim Brewster. And it isn't pretty. Here is the entire post:

So I just moved into a new apartment, and it so happens that Tim Brewster, the new U of MN coach, lives in the same place. Last week there was a "meet and greet" for the coach, and he gave his spiel about how great things would be for the MN Gophers, how they were changing the program around, and how excited they were to be moving into a new stadium in '09. He repeatedly made the statement "we need to keep Minnesota players in Minnesota" and told the crowd if anybody was from Cretin-Derham, to spread that message. I went up to him afterwards and told him congrats and good luck, but that I was from ND and we might be recruiting the same Minnesota players. In what I can only describe as bizarre, Brewster basically went off on me, saying how sick he was Notre Dame and our arrogance, pompous attitudes, and fear of playing Minnesota in their new stadium. When I told him it was the collective opinion of ND fans that it was our athletic director who wouldn't budge the schedule, he went off on Weis of all people, called him a "slob, a disgrace to Notre Dame, with his dirty mouth and appearance" or something similar. He said Notre Dame could never recruit another Minnesota player until Weis was under 350 pounds. This whole time I was kind of in awe that another D1 coach could be so tactless, especially around somebody who he had never met. I should have asked him if had a Notre Dame opt out clause in his contract, like Holtz. Oh well. But now I really wish we would play them in for their first game in the new stadium.
No matter the accuracy of the post, Brewster and the Gophers are getting hammered at ND Nation because of it. Some have even taken to calling our new coach 'Punky.'

I'll make two points. One, Weis is a big, big man, as you can see above. And second, could someone seriously make that up? Do Notre Dame fans really have a reason to tear down Brewster?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Countering Tubby's Buddy

A few posts down, I gave frequent commenter "Friend of Tubby" considerable space to convince readers that Tubby Smith is the answer Gopher fans have been waiting for.

I was shocked when the news arrived that Joel Maturi had hired Tubby Smith. For the first time in probably 10 years, my interest in Gophers basketball rose. During that decade, Dan Monson took a once proud progam and turned it into a laughingstock. So, Is Tubby the answer?

I won't fight with the statistics that "FOT" rattles off. And I won't fall into the trap of believing everything some rabid Kentucky fans say to slight their former coach. But I will make a few points, which highlight my reservations with the hire.

** First, this is likely Tubby Smith's last job, unless he's planning to use this gig as a jumping off point for another big-time program. But it would seem Tubby is tired of the spotlight and could get comfortable in Minnesota. So, how long does he want to stick around? At 55, turning 56 on June 30, it might be a stretch to think Tubby will be around 10 years. In my opinion, it will take him at least three years to change the direction of the Gophers program. Does he have the stamina? He's won his national title. Does the fire still burn? Does he have the energy for another rebuilding project?

** Recruiting: The one area where I think Kentucky fans have a legitmate point. But it's not as if Tubby Smith was landing Dan Monson-like recruiting classes. So, for us, recruiting should improve. But just a few months in, one of the knocks on Tubby in Kentucky may be showing up in Minnesota.

Let's take Stan Simpson as an example. In a article, it states that Simpson, as of June 7, was only starting to hear from Minnesota. The article states: "Simpson is just now starting to hear from the Gophers staff who has only been together for a couple of months." Maybe that was just a throw away line that didn't mean anything. But it tells me that the Gophers were late in talking to Simpson. This is the #24 power forward in the country, and a top 100 recruit. But it took Tubby's staff two months to start knocking on his door/text messaging him.

That anecdote by itself means little. But the one point Kentucky detractors make that I buy is that Tubby's passion isn't recruiting. For balance, I should point out that Tubby was on the Ralph Sampson bandwagon before the rest of the country. According to this article on Sampson, the Gophers and Tubby, along with Georgia Tech, were after Sampson before the rest of the country. Now, according to Rivals, Sampson's stock is rising. Tubby was there first. He needs to bring the product home.

This section on recruitment goes to show that Gopher fans shouldn't completely dismiss what Tubby's Kentucky detractors said about his recruiting abilities. At the same time, at the very least, we should see a better caliber player coming to Minnesota. Only time will tell whether Tubby has the stamina and desire to get the best of the best year after year.

** Gophers football coach Tim Brewster has wowed Gopher Nation with his enthusiasm. We didn't need a "Rah, Rah, Ski U Mah" from Tubby to excited about his hire. He's quoted as saying he wants to be here and feels wanted in Minnesota. As Minnesota fans, we wanted Tubby. But does he really want to be in marron and gold? Tubby's decision to come to Minnesota, in my opinion, was made abrubtly as a way to escape Kentucky.

I can't argue with the name value Tubby brings. But would the men's basketball program be better off with someone whose reason for coming here was to win first, not escape a hotstile situation?

In the end, I'm completely excited about Tubby. He's a class-act, and is well-respected throughout the game. And I beleve the program will be much better off as a result of his hire. But, was hiring an aging coach who wanted out of Kentucky more than he wanted to be at the U the best we could have done? You tell me. Clearly, I'm somewhat on the fence.

This site has been Tubby-centric the past week, culminating with a Chubby 4 Tubby conversation yesterday. In the next couple days, I'll review the camp Tim Brewster held this week for high schoolers, and continue my series on new assistant coaches with a look at defensive coordinator Everett Withers.

Reusse Weighs In On Brommer

Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse has weighed in on former Gopher commit Andrew Brommer. Reusee seems to echo what many in Gopher forums have perviously suggested, that the Rosemount forward/center might not be Big Ten material.

Here's Reusse:

As last season unfolded, there was a growing sentiment among Minnesota's prep hoops crowd that Brommer did not project as a Big Ten player.

It wasn't a surprise that Brommer had conversations with the new coaching staff and then announced that he was reopening the recruitment process.

There's also doubt about the Gophers' future of Minneapolis Henry senior Al Nolen Jr., a Monson signee. Nolen is waiting for college board scores to see if he's eligible this fall.

Even if he makes it, there's a chance Nolen could be let out of his Minnesota commitment and wind up at a school where his potential for playing time would be greater.

This serves to confirm what many of us already suspected, that Tubby's plans likely didn't include Brommer. In the same article, Reusee takes a shot at Gophers assistant coach Ron Jirsa, criticizing Tubby's #1 assistant for academic woes at Georgia.

The link to Reusee's entire "Between the Quotes" article is here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Chubby 4 Tubby?!?!?!?! Yikes!

With a hat tip to The Fanhouse, I read today that there is a new Web site titled Chubby 4 Tubby. And, yes, the site does exist and, in fact, asks readers to send in a photo of their, um, chubby.

Here's a snippet from the Web site: "Just click on a shirt and get a CHUBBY 4 TUBBY! Then send us a picture of you and your Chubby, and if we like it, we'll post it on our Show Us Your Chubby page."

Um, not sure where to start. Just saying "Chubby 4 Tubby" evokes serious mental meanderings not suitable for the workplace. The Web site doesn't appear to be a joke. I ripped the picture off of the 'Show us your Chubby' page. Thankfully, considering I'm on my work computer on company time, there wasn't anything on the link that was out of line.

But, sheesh, can this be a serious Web site? Do we need to resort to pornographic references to sell T-shirts? OMG. I mean, I'm happy the Gophers landed Tubby and all ...... but not that happy!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Goodbye Sopranos

David Chase likely pissed a lot of people off Sunday night, with the abrubt ending of The Sopranos. But I thought the episode was a classic.

Up until the curtain dropped, Chase kept viewers on the edge of their seats. The killing of Phil Leotardo was fantastic. Those rooting for Tony certainly cheered when Phil said "Bye-Bye."

I did think the scenes with AJ were strained. Is he depressive? Bored? The Army? Movies? I didn't find it realistic, but I guess when AJ saw some structure, he decided he might like the priveleged life. I would have liked to see him fall completely off the deep end.

Ending the episode, Chase essentially leaves Tony living happily ever after, with his kingdom intact and his family together ... and happy. Concentrate on the good things, AJ quoted his father as saying. A nice and fitting ending. Maybe a three-hour epic on a big screen can fill us in at some point and let us know if Tony and his sone were ever able to find that happiness. Until then, goodbye Sopranos.

Guest Post: Myths And Realities Of Tubby Smith

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post authored by an avid Tubby Smith supporter. He is a frequent commenter over at in Tubby's Barn. He does a good job of making the case for Smith, and while I agree with most of what is written, I plan to offer a counter sometime next week--unless others beat me to it first. Is Tubby as great as "Friend of Tubby" states?

By Friend Of Tubby
Guest Contributor

Tubby Smith left Kentucky on March 22, 2007 and was named coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers the next day. Since then (and even before), there have been a number of myths about Coach Smith that do not match reality based on a review of the facts.

I’m not from Minnesota and have never avidly followed the Golden Gophers as many of you have. I’m originally from Kentucky but I’m a Purdue graduate (1974) and a fan of the Big Ten conference for almost 40 years.

I’m also a friend of Tubby Smith. I first met him in September 2000 at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He was an assistant coach (along with ex-Purdue coach Gene Keady) on the Men’s team. My stepdaughter was a member of the Women’s team. Players, coaches, friends, and family all stayed in the same hotel in Parramatta, Australia for those 3 weeks. But I knew about him before that. I worked for a company that also employed Tubby Smith’s best friend and former High Point College teammate, Joe “Buck” Colbert.

Anyway, on to the Myths and Realities of Tubby Smith.

Myth #1 – Tubby is just an ordinary coach who doesn’t measure up to the Best of the Best in his era or all-time.
Reality #1 – Tubby is 387-145 in his 16 year coaching career. That’s 24-9 (average) per season. Bobby Knight averages 22-9 in his career. Mike Krzyzewski averages 24-8 for his career. Lute Olson, 23-8. Jim Boeheim, 24-8. Rick Pitino, 23-9. Tubby measures up.
Let’s look over the past 10 years. The best coaching records from 1998 through 2007 are:

Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, 302-53.
Roy Williams of Kansas and North Carolina, 277-73.
Jim Calhoun of Connecticut, 264-78.
Tubby Smith (formerly) of Kentucky, 263-83.
Billy Donovan of Florida, 248-86.
Tom Izzo of Michigan State, 245-92.

Once again, Tubby Smith measures up quite well to the Best of the Best active coaches.

Myth #2 – Tubby has achieved good success in the regular season but not in the NCAA tournament.
Reality #2 – Tubby is 29-13 (all-time) in NCAA tournament games and 23-9 over the past 10 years.

He ranks 11th best (all-time) in W-L (%) record at 69% just behind Dean Smith and Jim Calhoun at 70% and slightly ahead of Al McGuire and Jerry Tarkanian. He ranks 8th best among active coaches. It is clear (again) that Tubby measures up to the Best of the Best in NCAA tournament results. He is one of only 11 active coaches who have NCAA championship ring(s).

Again, looking at the past 10 years, the best coaching records in NCAA games are:

Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, 28-9 in NCAA.
Roy Williams of Kansas and North Carolina, 25-7.
Jim Calhoun of Connecticut, 25-6.
Tom Izzo of Michigan State, 24-9.
Tubby Smith (formerly) of Kentucky, 23-9.
Billy Donovan of Florida, 22-7.

Myth #3 – Tubby Smith can’t recruit. He only wins when he coaches players recruited by someone else.
Reality #3 – Not exactly. Let’s look at several examples. When Tubby took his first head coaching job at Tulsa in 1991, the roster contained just 4 scholarship players returning. He went to work and recruited some excellent players for his system. After 2 seasons, he took the Golden Hurricane to consecutive Sweet 16 appearances (in 1994 and 1995) with 23-8 and 24-8 records. Those were the first NCAA wins ever recorded by Tulsa. Nolan Richardson coached at Tulsa but never won an NCAA game there.

Another example is Georgia. Tubby moved from Tulsa to Athens in 1995. His first team had 8 seniors and produced a third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance for Tubby. That team had 21 W and defeated #1 seed Purdue (my alma mater) in the NCAA tournament. His next Bulldog team was almost completely his own recruits but proceeded to set a school record with 24 W and defeated SEC champion South Carolina (twice) on the way to the first ever (and only) back-to-back 20+ W seasons at Georgia.

Tubby moved to Kentucky in 1997 when Rick Pitino left UK for the Boston Celtics. UK had experienced uncommon success (best since the 1940’s and 1950’s) during the Pitino era. UK averaged 30 W per season and won 81% of its NCAA games from 1992 through 1997. How can you top that?

Well, Tubby did just that. Despite UK losing 6 players to the NBA draft in the 2 seasons prior to his arrival, he finished out the 1990’s by averaging 31 W per season and winning 90% of his NCAA games. He took players that had never played a major role at UK and coached them to 35 W while defeating three straight 30+ W teams (Duke, Stanford, Utah) to earn the NCAA title in 1998. That’s never been done (before or since) in NCAA tournament annals.

Tubby recruited 6 (of 9) classes at UK that earned Top 15 or better ratings from the RSCI (recruiting consensus) Winners method. No other coach – not Roy Williams, not Billy Donovan, not Mike Krzyzewski, no one – signed more Top 15 rated classes in that timeframe. The RSCI process was created in 1998 by Jeff Crume and is a well respected recruiting Web site.

With 100% his own UK recruits the past 5 seasons, Tubby Smith won 77% of his games (131-40). From 2003 through 2005, he was 87-15 (85%) for the #1 record in Div I Men’s basketball. I’m reminded of the remark by ex-Houston Oilers’ coach Bum Phillips, who once said, “He’ll take his (players) and beat yours or he’ll take yours and beat his.” Tubby Smith wins with HIS players, whether they are his recruits or not.

Myth #4 – Tubby can’t develop players. His players never seem to reach their potential.
Reality #4 – Once again, not even close to being accurate. Tubby had 3 players at Tulsa drafted by the NBA. He had 2 players at Georgia drafted by the NBA. Collectively, he had 7 players make All-Conference teams at Tulsa and Georgia.

He continued that pattern at Kentucky. A total of 14 of his UK players either were drafted by the NBA or made it as free agents. And 16 of his Wildcats made All-SEC. Tayshaun Prince became the first 2-time All-American at UK in almost 20 years. His UK players dot the UK all-time best lists – Keith Bogans, 4th best scorer ever at UK. Chuck Hayes, 7th best rebounder at UK. Erik Daniels and Marquis Estill, the best lefthanded (Daniels) and righthanded (Estill) FG percentage shooters at UK.

Myth #5 – Tubby didn’t measure up to the lofty standards of Kentucky basketball.
Reality #5 – Yes, he did. He won 76% of his games there and 77% (with his own recruits) the past 5 seasons. That meets the UK average (76%) all-time. He won 72% of his NCAA games there. That exceeds the UK average of 69% in NCAA games all-time.

He won 1 NCAA title in 10 years there. UK has won 7 NCAA titles in the 69 years of the NCAA tournament (since 1939). He won 5 SEC titles and 5 SEC tournament championships in 10 years. Both meet UK all-time results in SEC history (since 1933).

Finally, Tubby is one of the Top 10 active coaches in Div I college basketball. He is universally respected (and admired) by his coaching peers. He won Coach of the Year awards in 1998, 2003 (unanimous), and 2005. His streak of 14 straight NCAA appearances and 14 straight 20+ W seasons are exceeded only by coaches like Roy Williams and Lute Olson. He is one of a handful of college coaches to have a winning overall record and winning conference record in every season of his coaching career.

Tubby measures up. He’ll do extremely well at The U. You’ll be pleased 10 years from now when he retires. He’s THAT good!

Sid, Prosecutor Not Worried About Facts Or Ruining Reputations Of Three Minnesota Football Players

In Sid Hartman's Star Tribune column today, the aged sports columnist coaxes Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to talk about an investigation he knows he shouldn't. The victims in this? University of Minnesota football players Alex Daniels, Keith Massey and EJ Jones and the rest of the Gophers football team

It's one thing if Sid was reporting something new, like a conviction, an indictment or even a smoking gun. But he tells us nothing. The players may be turn out to be guilty, but that doesn't excuse Freeman for blabbing to the press about an ongoing investgation. Here's what Sid wrote:

Investigation of players continues
The investigation of three Gophers football players -- Alex Daniels, Keith Massey and E.J. Jones -- is ongoing, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. The three were jailed and released, but not charged, last April in connection with the sexual assault of an 18-year-old woman.

"I can't talk about an ongoing investigation, but you're an old friend and I'll just tell you that we are investigating every angle of this case as thoroughly as it can possibly be done, and we are talking to Gopher football players," Freeman said.

Freeman said he hopes to complete interviews soon with several Gophers
players. Meanwhile, Gophers coach Tim Brewster doesn't know what to do about
the three players, who are innocent until proven guilty.
So, Freeman admits he cannot talk about an ongoing investigation, then proceeds to do exactly that. Why? Because Sid is 94 and they've known each other a long time? Is that a good enough reason to give weak information regarding a criminal investigation to a sensational reporter?

If Freeman has something to report, like actual charges, then by all means call a press conference. Until then, he needs to keep his mouth shut.

As a reporter by day, I understand Sid's temptation. He probably feels giving an update on this is solid reporting. But it's the opposite. For starters, Sid shows his narcissism by throwing in the quote, "but you're an old friend and I'll just tell you ..." Yuck.

Secondly, Sid should remember an incident in North Carolina a few short months ago when some Duke lacrosse players were wrongly fingered by an overzealous prosecutor and a media looking for juice. The players were innocent. Their reputations? Beyond tarnished.

At this point, the investigation has proved nothing. But, still a prosecutor is talking to Sid about the investigation--and who knows what else Freeman whispered to Sid off the record. Both the media and the prosecutor need some facts before suggesting sexual assault. If these players are proven innocent----and again there have been no charges----will Sid and Freeman apologize for continuing to drag their names into the public eye?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Weekend Linkerama

Topics: Tubby Smith, your typical college drop-out blogger and Ryan Wittman, of son of Timberwolves coach fame.

** When Tubby Smith left the University of Kentucky, he said he felt wanted in Minnesota. Much was made in the commonwealth of Kentucky when Tubby was hired how his about race would play in Lexington. Now that Tubby is gone, according to this article from the Lexington Herald-Leader, callers to talk show hosts have gotten ugly concerning Tubby.

P.G. Peeples, president and chief executive officer of the Lexington-Fayette Urban League, said he listens to basketball call-in radio shows and has heard some "bone-chilling and scary" things since Smith left.

A forum of community leaders in Lexington addressed the Tubby-race issue this week. I'm not going to offer a long comment on this seeing as I have not seen what has gone on in Kentucky first hand. I will say, however, that we want a winning basketball program in Minnesota. Tubby, we don't care if you are black, white, yellow, green or purple. Win and win the right way, and we'll love you. Shit, we'll put your name on the Williams Arena floor.

** Need more Tubby? This Kentucky blog suggests that Tubby didn't work hard enough to land Bud Mackey, a 4-star point guard from Georgetown, Ky. The blog quotes Mackey as saying Indiana and Kelvin Sampson outworked Tubby and Kentucky.
"There was a big difference. Indiana proved to me they wanted me more. They came to practices, they even checked up on me a couple of times at school."
The scuttlebutt on the Kentucky blogs is that the rabid fans wanted Tubby to recruit Mackey harder, even pursue him hard after he verbally committed to Indiana. Mackey is a top 10 point guard according to

Tubby strikes me as a gentlemen. Is he too nice for the recruiting wars? I can't answer that, but what I can say is that I've been impressed with how he's pursued recruits since landing in Minnesota. He's cut ties (presumably) with Rosemount center/forward Andrew Brommer. As a Gophers fan, I'm going to judge Tubby on what he does here, not what the lunatics in Kentucky might say. Time will tell.

** A commenter at a Golden Gopher forum gives an update to the men's nonconference basketball schedule for the upcoming year. The post states the Gophers will host Cornell, Nevada and Brown and travel to Iowa State, Florida State (ACC/Big 10 Challenege) and face UNLV, Kennesaw State and Nicholls State at the Duel in the Desert Tournament (Round Robin). This would mean a homecoming for Ryan Wittman, son of Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman, who was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, according to a Big Red blog. Wittman, pictured at left, played prep hoops at Eden Prairie. The Gophers men's basketball schedule for the upcoming year has not yet been released. If anyone has more information on the schedule, let PJS know.

** Greg Oden is blogging. At least he appears to be blogging. But, considering Oden has dropped out at the Ohio State University, it makes one wonder if Oden is the one doing the typing.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Theories On The Final Episode Of The Sopranos

It's with some sadness that I sit down to write about the series finale of The Sopranos. With two exceptions when I've been on vacation and the first half of the first season, I've watched the premiere of every Sopranos episode. This weekend, a Sunday staple, perhaps more entertaining than the NFL, comes to an end.

I'm going to lay out here a few theories on what might happen. These aren't all my own unique theories. Many of them are conglomerations of what I've read and hear other people predict for the Sopranos finale. I'll lay out a couple theories I find realistic before making my own prediction.

If you haven't seen the most recent episode this season and plan to, stop reading now. What follows will spoil all but the Sopranos finale.

** Tony's son, AJ, goes ballistic. After Tony gets revenge for the death of Bobby and (presumably) Silvio, AJ gets his own revenge. As part of Tony's other family, it has been AJ who has his father's depression. He's been shown a door into his father's world. AJ didn't like what he saw, became even more depressed, and tried to take his own life. While Tony saved AJ from his suicide attempt, he also gave AJ--in my opinion a much deserved--beatdown last week. After Tony gets revenge, and with his mob kingdom now intact again, his real family deserts him. AJ kills Tony before killing himself.

** For what seems like forever, Paulie has been on the outs with Tony. David Chase made it clear in an episode earlier this year that Tony, at least partially, wanted to do away with Paulie. In previous seasons, Paulie flirted with joining the New York crew. Paulie eventually realized he was being played. But Phil Leotardo's decision not to go after Paulie, and instead target just Bobby, Tony and Sil, leaves open the possibility that Paulie could be playing both sides. Paulie turns on Tony, and kills him, leaving Tony's real family in disarray. News of Tony's death gets infuriates AJ and Meadow. One of the two plot revenge for the New Jersey family.

** Carmella's house, which we've learned could fall down at any time, collapses and kills her.

What I think will happen?
For two seasons, David Chase has went out of his way to foreshadow a potential terrorist attack. Tony has worked with federal agents, tipping them off to sucspious activity. At the same time, the feds who were putting together a RICO investigation on Tony have been nowhere to be found during this final season. So, while the war between New York and New Jersey heightens, perhaps the only innocent character left in the show--Meadow--dies in a terrorist attack in New York. The deaths hit home to others as well, making the feud between New York and New Jersey seem relatively meaningless. Tony may or may not take out revenge on Phil before or after the terrorist attack.

I think Chase has spent too much time playing up a potential terrorist attack without following through. It would make sense for Meadow to die, however, considering the show has been about Tony's two families and his relationships with them. Killing off Tony would be too predictable. But giving the famlies a reason to come together, short of a complete mob-on-mob showdown, would make sense.

The show ends with Tony looking off into the distance, much like the photo above. His empire is intact, but his daughter is gone. Solemn ending.

This theory also allows me to use this picture of the gorgeous Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

What I'd really like to see?
A spin-off, with Meadow taking control of the Jersey mob after Tony's death. It'll never happen, so I'll just have to be content with what Chase offers us. Chase is directing the finale. I can't wait, but then again, I almost wish it wasn't happening.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Vince Taylor: A Closer Look

If there is one assistant coach on Tubby Smith's staff to be excited about it's Vince Taylor.

He has recruited for a big-time basketball program (Louisville), has played for Duke and has gotten at least a little bit of NBA experience both as a player and coach. He's ambitious and eventually wants to run a program. If he can help Tubby turn the Gophers around, Taylor may in fact be called upon to run a big-time program of his own.

Taylor worked under both Denny Crum and Rick Pitino at Lousiville, before spending a year with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He's still well liked in Louisville, and the Courier-Journal, while bashing Tubby's chances of success in Minnesota, lauds Taylor.

Taylor has a pedigree few assistant coaches can match. He played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, worked for Pitino at Louisville and now joins Smith at Minnesota. He is 46 and wants to lead his own program one day. This is his chance to upgrade his profile by recruiting well and helping Minnesota shock the Big Ten.

Smith's final difficult seasons at UK proved that he needs assistants who can deliver in the recruiting world. Recruiting is not Smith's passion.

While some Gopher fans may point to certain successes Tubby has had in the recruiting wars over the years, for a fan who is willing to listen to some of the complaints Kentucky diehards made about Tubby, the hiring of a recruiting ace like Taylor eases some worries. Taylor earned his reputation before Pitino's stint in Louisville. He was recruiting for Crum in the late '90s and the Cardinals' typical recruiting base was drying up. In 2000, ESPN's Pat Forde noted Taylor's work overseas.

Louisville was producing fewer blue-chip recruits, and the only two future pros of recent vintage -- Derek Anderson and Scott Padgett -- starred at arch-rival Kentucky. Ouch.

Slow reaction to the shifting recruiting map has left scars. The Cardinals haven't won 20 games in a season, won an NCAA Tournament game or beaten Conference USA kingpin Cincinnati since Wheat was a senior in 1997.

Now Louisville's recruiting response to hard times has been a seismic shift from provincial to international. A program that used to make hay inside the city limits has gone through customs in attempting a return to glory.


The foreign legion has landed in Louisville in large part through the efforts of the Cards' international affairs expert, assistant coach Vince Taylor, who played ball for 13 years overseas. He's helped make Crum a late, but enthusiastic, convert to the worldwide recruiting.

In a report from 1999, Hoop Scoop Online also lauds Taylor's "international contacts." Before earning his reputation in Louisville, Taylor had a journeyman's basketball career. He was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1982 after earning All-ACC honors at Duke. He struggled in the NBA before moving to Europe, where he played 13 seasons according to published reports. During his last two seasons in Europe he served as a player-coach.

Taylor took that experience and came back to the States. He coached briefly at Pittsburgh and the University of Wyoming before getting his opportunity at Louisville. Now, after a year with the Timberwolves he's back in the college ranks. He has told the Star Tribune that recruiting this year and next will be critical.
"I coached at Louisville and have been a part of some great recruiting classes," Taylor said. "All the coaches are going to be out there [recruiting]. This year and next year is crucial to getting the program turned around."
Taylor couldn't be any more on point. The Gophers will lose Spencer Tollackson, Dan Coleman and Lawrence McKenzie after this season. Tubby will have plenty of scholarships available to him to rebuild, and we've already heard plenty of names that could make us quickly forget the Dan Monson era.

Fellow assistant coach Ron Jirsa has had his chance to run his own program and it hasn't worked out. While he'll be trying to prove his worth in Minnesota, Taylor will be trying to prove to the world he can run his own program. Taylor can prove that by bringing talent to Minnesota--local, regional or international.

This is the third installment of PJS' look at new assistant coaches in Minnesota. We previously discussed Jirsa and Mike Dunbar. In the following weeks, we'll look at Everett Withers and Saul Smith.

No To Noah

According to Senile Sid Hartman, the Timberwolves brought in Florida's Joakim Noah and Washington's Spencer Hawes for workouts. While it has been hard to follow the Wolves in recent years, it's hard not to root for Kevin McHale and Randy Wittman to put a good team alongside Kevin Garnett.

But drafting Noah at #7 is not the answer. Here's what Wittman said of Noah:

"And Joakim Noah is just a phenomenal athlete that can do a lot of the intangibles that any coach loves to see in a person. He runs the floor, he can defend just about any position, is a great energy guy, rebounder, slasher to the basket. So, he's a guy that presents a combination of doing all those little intangibles. Well, we need to get more athletic and bigger, and he's [Noah] big. He's a lot taller than people think watching him on TV. So, yeah, that's what we're trying to look to do from a standpoint of our team is getting bigger and more athletic, and he fits both those bills."
Everything Wittman said about Noah is true. He just forgot to mention that Noah can't shoot free throws and isn't much better aroud the basket offensively.

Is he good enough to be a Ben Wallace type? I'm not sure. He'll need to get a lot stronger. Noah's teammate, Corey Brewer, while not the banger type that KG might beneift by playing with, is the better UF player.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


PJS decided to do a little decorating tonight. Pardon the mess. Let me know what you think. Playing with html is not PJS' speciality.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Links Around Gopher Nation

** Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse notes the peculiar hire of Joe Esposito as the Gophers men's basketball director of operation. Esposito was the coach of The Villages High School in Florida last year. Yes, that's right, a high school coach. A year prior, Angelo coached Angelo State in Texas, but Reusee reports he resigned with four games left in the year with a worrisome 8-16 record. Esposito met Tubby Smith, Reusee continues, as an assistant at Tennessee State in 1995. Reusee finds the hire curious.

"My relationship with Tubby Smith began when I picked him up at the airport in Nashville and I played with him in a golf tournament," Esposito said. "We struck up a friendship ..."

Isn't it interesting that a guy who served as Tubby's go-fer at a charity golf tournament a dozen years ago lands with the Gophers as a choice over numerous Minnesota high school coaches who might have actually helped the new coach in keeping the best of the locals at home?

Now, this position isn't one that is front line on the recruiting trail. This is what he told the local paper covering his high school squad.

“I’m basically in charge of a variety of everything,” Esposito said, “things like the team’s travel itinerary, meals, practice plans, office personnel. The only thing I won’t be doing is recruiting, which is perfect for me because it means I’ll still have time to spend with my family instead of being on the road like a traditional D-I coach.”
Our View: The hiring is questionable. It had also been widely reported that Tubby Smith would offer this position to the high school coach of Draymond Green, a prep standout that had committed to Smith at Kentucky, but has taken a step back after Smith landed in Minnesota.

** The Associated Press headline is pretty blunt. "Lickliter Recruits in Tubby Smith Territory." Minnetonka shooting guard Anthony Tucker, a rising junior, has verbally committed to play in Iowa.'s profile of Tucker suggests that his best attribuite is his outside shooting. Scout ranks him as a 3-star guard.

An Iowa newspaper reports that Tucker wasn't widely pursued. He also had offers from Wisconsin Green-Bay, Utah State and Western Michigan. That would seem to indicate big-time programs, or even mid-level programs, weren't hot on Tucker's trail.

Our View: The AP's headline is sensational. Tubby has offered scholarships to players with more potential and who are ranked higher by scouting services. Time will tell if Tubby has a better eye for talent then his Kentucky detractors would insist. It would seem Lickliter signed a guard that Tubby and every other coach in a BCS school didn't want.

** Minnesota blogger Down With Goldy brings readers a lengthy YouTube clip of Minnesota recruit Nathan Garth. A 6-4 junior from Dallas, Tx., Garth orally committed to Tubby last month. He's ranked as a 3-star guard by Rivals.

Our View: Garth looks good in the video. He has a smooth outside stroke and can slash into the lane. His ball handling looks OK, but will need to significantly improve against rough Big Ten defenses. He seems to have good vision and knows where his teammates are on the floor. Garth seems to be a guard who isn't afraid to put the ball on the floor and take it to the hoop.