Monday, January 14, 2008

Coach Of The Year Talk Begins

It is premature. But if the season ended today no Big Ten coach has exceeded expectations the way Tubby Smith has in Minnesota. And it's not just me who thinks that.

Dave Dye in his college notebook in the Detroit News agrees.

Should we just give Tubby Smith the Big Ten coach of the year award right now?

Smith left Kentucky to take over at Minnesota, which was coming off a 9-22 season, including a 3-13 conference record.

Tubby quickly has turned the Gophers into a legitimate contender for an NCAA Tournament bid. They overcame a 16-point, second-half deficit for a 76-73 victory at Penn State.

Minnesota (12-3, 2-1) is No. 45 in the RPI. One thing the Gophers are going to need at some point is a signature victory.

The opportunities are there this week with two big home games against No. 10 Indiana (Thursday) and No. 6 Michigan State (Sunday).

Dye is right on the money here. And as an aside, wouldn't it be nice if our two local periodicals would provide us with a college notebook? I digress. If the season ended today, I would think it would be a two-man race for Big Ten coach of the year between Tubby and Matt Painter, who has his baby Boilers playing very well. Painter's team could be a Big Ten power in the year's to come.

There are a few other interesting tidbits from around the Web to share this morning.

** Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal writes a short recap of the Indiana-Illinois game where he notes that Bruce Weber isn't a big fan of Kelvin Sampson. That's cool, and Bill Belichick like, but what I found interesting in this item was that Bozich noted how Weber slowed down Eric Gordon by putting athletic and taller defenders on the Hoosier's star freshman. I wonder if Tubby was taking notes during the Sunday matinee. If he was, we might see Damian Johnson get the honors again. Johnson was the Gopher charged with taking on Geary Claxton Saturday. While Johnson found himself in foul trouble throughout the game, he is our best defender and is versatile enough to play outside against Gordon. Al Nolen is also a candidate here to take on the star freshman, but I would think Nolen's short stature would work against him.

** The Star Tribune's Sid Hartman had a conversation with Tubby Smith, who I imagine before long will be one of Sid's "close personal friends." For now, Smith's just a source, but one who comes off as giddy after the come-from-behind win at State College, Pa. Saturday.

Here's Tubby via Sid:

As for Saturday's rally, which saw the Gophers come back after trailing 58-42 with 12:58 to play, Smith said: "We had plenty of time left in the game, and that's what I told the players: 'Don't panic, fellas. We've got plenty of time, just finish the game plan, let's carry out the game plan, keep attacking inside.'

"And sure enough, Blake [Hoffarber] got hot and we got some momentum and then we started to take the ball back inside. Damian Johnson jumped up and made a three. So, those things, and Spencer Tollackson was having a [solid game] ... [and] no three was bigger than the three that Lawrence McKenzie hit that put us ahead. That really gave us the, 'Hey look, we can win this game.' And they did."

Tubby sounds like a coach who is very pleased that his team didn't pack it in when down 16 Saturday. Also of note, in his dolling out of superlatives, one senior is noticeably missing. Just saying, it could have been an oversight.

** The typically sarcastic bloggers at 10,000 Takes take a break from taking entertaining jabs at Minnesota sports personalities and have compiled a list of The Best of Minnesota Sports. After less than one year on the job, Tubby Smith gets the honor of Best Coach. Williams Arena, pre- and post-Dan Monson gets the nod for Best Stadium Atmosphere. I tend to agree with this one, but you might not—Best Columnist: Patrick Reusse. And among a slew of other honorees you should check out, PJS gets the nod for Best Gophers Web site. Thanks to 10,000 Takes for the recognition.


Goofer said...

PJS, Did you notice at the end of the Penn St game, I believe right after Lawrence made the long three to put as ahead, Tubby step onto the floor? After Tubby moved out of view I saw the ref flapping has arm towards Tubby as if to say get back in the box. Lucky there wasn't a technical called there.

PJS said...

I didn't notice that, Goofer. I was busy annoying the shocked Penn State fans sitting around me in the Bryce Jordan Center.

The refs usually give coaches a warning for getting out of the coaching box, and I don't remember them warning Tubby earlier. Had they called a ridiculous tech on Tubby for stepping outside the coaching box at that juncture, I might have picked a fight with the zebras.

Friend Of Tubby said...

To coin a phrase...

He's THAT good!

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