Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Countering Tubby's Buddy

A few posts down, I gave frequent Gopherhole.com 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 Rivals.com 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 Rivals.com 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.


Mark said...

I think one thing that needs to be taken into account when evaluating the Tubby hire is how bad off the Gophers program got under Monson.

Is Tubby THE best they could have done? Maybe not. But he's easily going to be a big improvement over Monson. If he sticks around for five years or so before retiring, at the very least, the Gophers will have a program respectable enough to maybe attract a younger, hungrier top-level coach.

I don't think any amount of money or sales job by Maturi could have attracted that type of coach at this stage. If nothing else, Tubby leaving a legacy of restoring some sense of pride and enthusiasm to Williams after what Monson did to it would make Tubby a hero in my eyes. That's what prompted me to get season tickets again for the first time since I was a senior at the U during the Final Four run.

Paging Jim Shikenjanski said...

I agree with everything you wrote, Mark. I have no doubt Tubby will be an improvement over Monson and elevate the program.

In reality, it was tough for me to write that counter-opinion. If I lived in MInnesota now, like you, I'd have bought season tickets too.

Though I did read today in one of the papers that season ticket sales have incerased substantially more for the football team than the basketball team. I wonder why that is.

Mark said...

I would say one reason is that the football program has a lot more room to grow as far as season ticket sales.

Basketball ticket holders didn't so much drop their tickets as just stop going to the games during Monson's era. And, football season ticket sales have also been positively influenced by the new stadium. I had to swallow hard when I got football tickets for 2006. I wanted to get on the priority list, but watching Mason wasn't exactly appealing.

Also, football tickets are cheaper than basketball by a good margin. My 2007 football ticket was $250. My basketball ticket for 2007-2008 was $400-some and that was with a 20% discount for alumni association members.

Anonymous said...

I've seen that much waffling since I was at Perkins last. Tubby's good, Tubby's bad, Tubby's good, Tubby's bad. I'll take his 20 year rep over your evaluation.

Paging Jim Shikenjanski said...

You're right, I am waffling. I'm simply laying out what I see as red flags.

Anonymous said...

Tubby recruited and coached well at Tulsa (3 NBA players in 4 years), Georgia (2 NBA players in 2 years), and Kentucky (14 NBA players in 10 years).

Not all were his recruits.

He signed 2 straight Top 10 rated classes at Georgia. He signed 7 (of 9) Top 15 or better classes at Kentucky.

He'll recruit well at The U also.

Anonymous said...

Tubby might do well in Minnesota. I hope he does for Minnesota's sake. It was over due to leave UK.

R. Smith said...

As a UK fan, I think you are falling into the same groove that many UK fans did early on with Tubby.

Class Act, Great character, Nice guy, Represents the program well

In the end, for UK, Tubby was a great neighbor, perfect man to head up charity work, outstanding spokesman for giving UK good PR from people who spend 40 minutes of their year considering the state of Kentucky Basketball to write an article and then move on to discussing some other sport

But for anyone paying attention, he wasn't measuring up on the court - at least not in terms of coaching at a top 5 program.

Kentucky has suffered under Coach Smith the last few years, due mainly to his disdain for recruiting and his disorganization - or lack of detail. In a program where the fans know what you do every day - if you have a poor recruiting year, they are going to question why you in a golf tournament instead of some gym watching a high school recruit.

Tubby may do very well at Minnesota and I wish him the best.
Minnesota fans may welcome him and be thrilled that he is their coach. If so, ignore UK fan's warnings as sour grapes.

But the reality is UK fans have a legitimate complaint and unfortunately, when it comes to their basketball program, feelings have long memories. Tubby is the guy to get your program into the NCAA tourney. Tubby is also the guy to look back and consider that "good enough".

Anonymous said...

I have just found and read this blog entry, and want to share Tubby's record, the one that caused him to lose the support of the UK Fan base, and here it is:

Tubby’s Record

· Tubby has never recruited, signed, and coached his own chosen player in a final four.

· Tubby holds the record for consecutive seasons as UK coach without a final four, 9.

· Over the last eight seasons, UK lost 10+ games five times. In addition, the 1999 season produced 9 losses.

· Of the 37 players that Tubby Smith recruited and signed to play for UK in 9 years, 17 left early, and only one of the 17 managed to move directly into the NBA upon the early exit. Four others have tried to flee, but failed.

· UK basketball players have a 23% graduation rate in 4 years, and 33% after 6 years, beginning with 99/00 season! This is well below the overall graduation rate for all student athletes at UK for all sports programs, and is under ½ of the average for basketball programs in D1.

· Tubby's recruiting is ineffective, and leaves UK scrambling for the leftovers, rather than competing at the table for the prime dishes.

· During Tubby's ten years as UK head coach, pace has steadily declined.

· During Tubby's ten years as UK coach, the average margin of victory has steadily declined.

· By 2006, Tubby strategically placed UK basketball in position to compete with the middle of the pack in the SEC, hope for an at large NCAA bid with no better than an eight seed.

Tubby Smith inherited a program at the pinnacle of the game, and degraded it over 10 years into mediocrity. His accomplishments at Georgia were with Hugh Durham recruits/players, and the Georgia program did not recover from its 2 years of Tubby for many years. His primary accomplishment at UK, the 98 Championship, was with Pitino recruits/players, and it will take the UK program several years to recover from Tubby.

TheProfessor/Concerned Fans For UK Basketball

tigobitties said...

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