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Tubby Fired: Was it the Right Call?

Tubby Smith
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tubby Smith had his best team, signed a contract extension through the 2016-2017 season last summer, and it looked like he was going to be the guy in Minnesota for awhile until the news broke yesterday about his future.

The Gophers started the 2012-2013 season 15-1, were ranked in the top ten early in the college basketball season, and they looked like an early favorite to win it all. However, they faded, and finished the year 5-11. The Gophers then lost in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, but won a game in the NCAA tournament, and that still wasn’t enough to keep Smith around.

Yesterday, CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman reported the Minnesota Golden Gophers have fired head coach Tubby Smith after six seasons in the Twin Cities. Smith was 124-81, but was 46-62 in Big Ten play. Smith guided the Gophers to 20+ wins in five of his six seasons, but never could win a Big Ten title. That is one obvious reason he got the axe.

Smith won his first NCAA tournament game this year in six seasons with the Gophers before falling to Florida yesterday in the round of 32.

This year, Smith had his best roster, and his recruiting class was finally healthy, and ready to make a run. The Gophers dominated their non-conference schedule, but once the Big Ten regular season started, they flopped. The Gophers displayed inconsistencies, and showed their inability to win big games minus their win at home against Indiana.

It was Smith’s resume in Minnesota that is an obvious reason why he was fired. In six seasons, the Gophers never finished above sixth place, went 1-4 in the NCAA tournament, and didn’t sign a top-100 recruit since Rodney Williams, and Royce White in 2009.

Smith couldn’t get players to stay either in his program. His Top-100 recruit Royce White left for Iowa State, and Colorado State big man Colton Iversen, who was the Rams leading scorer and rebounder this past season, and led them to the second round in the NCAA tournament, left as well.

The last factor that may have played a role in the firing of Smith was Teague didn’t want to “mediocre,” and with the level of Big Ten play increasing, he decided a change needed to take place.

As a result, athletic director Norwood Teague didn’t like the end result, so he took a different direction. A possible direction that the Gophers may go now is trying to steal Shaka Smart from VCU. The Gophers have connections, as Teague was at VCU and was responsible for the hiring of Smart. Former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders name has also been rumored as a possible replacement, as well.

Going into the 2013-2014 season, Minnesota will lose it two big men, Trevor Mbakwe, and Rodney Williams, but will return talented guards Austin and Andre Hollins.

The timing is the most confusing part of this whole firing, as Smith had just got a extension before the season, and it seemed like the Gophers were headed into the right direction after making it back to the NCAA tournament game, and winning a game. Obviously, though it wasn’t enough for Teague, and now, a new coach will be brought in. The downside will be a new coach will have a new philosophy, will want to bring in their own recruits, and he may lose the focus of the present players that are coming back next year. This could be especially tough as the Big Ten is getting to be a strong conference, and to be a strong team, a team needs consistency.

Unfortunately for Smith, he didn’t fulfill the expectations of their new athletic director Teague, and as a result, Minnesota said goodbye to Smith as their head coach. A new era may be on the rise for Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball.

Tubby Smith Fired by Minnesota

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