Okay, I’m trying to keep a lid on my rage about the number of publically prominent people bitching about the President’s handling of BP’s environmental disaster in the Gulf. I want to go through the screen every time I hear the loud mouths of Joe Scarborough and James Carville running their yaps about how Obama is running the country. In today’s final statement about President Obama’s handling of the crisis, if you are ripping him, go screw yourself because you obviously are totally clueless about the nature of this situation and collateral issues!
On to Tubby Smith and his sinking ship known as the Minnesota Gopher basketball program. He and the “U” just lost a court case brought against them by former assistant coach Jimmy Williams. I had originally ripped Williams for quitting his job at Oklahoma State before “inking the deal” with Tubby at Minnesota. I have since learned that he couldn’t have signed a contract at Minnesota without formally quitting at OSU. He could have, however, at least come to Minneapolis and had formal meetings and agreements made with Tubby and Joel Maturi, the school’s Athletic Director. His contact was only via phone conversation with Tubby. There’s plenty of blame to go around here. defenders of Tubby say his deal with Maturi was made over the phone to get him here. The differences; Tubby was unemployed at the time, thus unencumbered by an existing contract, and he made the deal with Maturi, the head athletic guy at Minnesota.
The round ball program seems to be on a pretty steep downward slope. The team still has a pretty decent core of players, good enough to get them to the NCAA tournament next year, provided nobody else flees the program. Tubby is entering his fourth year at the “U”. This will now be all of “his” players, used to playing his system. The Star Tribune reported today that in Tubby’s fourth year at Kentucky, he led the “Cats to the sweet 16. Tom Izzo, in his fourth year at Michigan State made the Final Four. By Thad Matta’s fourth year at Ohio State he had already coached in the national championship game. I’ve talked about this before on these pages, there is something wrong at the University of Minnesota trying to develope nationally prominent programs in the “major sports”. Nobody, even Sid Hartman, can explain what the problem is. The Gopher hoopsters play their home games at venerable old Williams Arena. Built in 1919, “the barn” for decades was considered the premier basketball facility in the country. To this day, it’s raised floor is considered the best floor in Division One hoops. The barn used to be rockin’, prior to fire code restrictions, over twenty thousand Gopher crazies would jam into there. The most exciting place in the world to watch a live basketball game was at Williams Arena during the Bill Musselman era. He brought passion and success to the “U”. He also brought scorn and probation. Since then, with the exception of Jim Dutcher’s first team post-Musselman that was considered by far the best team in the country, the program has had only spots of moderate success and excitement. The fire marshall has reduced capacity at the barn to only about thirteen thousand. It’s still a world-class basketball playing arena.
In Tubby’s tenure here, he has not signed a single high school blue chipper from outside Minnesota. Hell, even Don Lucia, the “U” hockey coach, just signed a blue chip puckster from Canada! So far this year he has lost three players, one of them, Royce White, is a true All-American candidate player. The program might be losing another quality player soon in Trevor Mbakwe. It begs the question once again, what’s wrong with the Gopher big revenue programs, football, basketball, and hockey? Tubby has a record of building national powerhouse programs at Tulsa, Georgia, and Kentucky. So, it’s not Tubby, what is it?
I believe Maturi is in way over his head running a Big Ten conference school’s athletics. He has made so many rookie mistakes, even years into his tenure, that it literally is having a dragging down effect on the whole program. The fact the non-revenue sports do quite well is indicative of his strength. He came out of a much smaller program at Miami of Ohio, thus has experience operating on a smaller playing field. the Minnesota president, Don Bruninks is a big athletics fan but that’s where it starts and stops from the school’s administration. For decades the administration and faculty have not been supportive of Gopher sports. Other than the die-hard hockey fans, the alumni doesn’t really back the programs as much as they should. Minnesota is a world-class university with very prestigious academic and research programs. It is the single biggest campus in the United States, with a very vibrant student population. It’s actually the most difficult school in Minnesota to get accepted to for high school seniors. It’s an urban campus with access to all the neat stuff that college kids love. So why can’t they field quality, national power programs? A question without answers at this time.
On a positive note, my beloved Gopher baseball team is just a win away from going to the NCAA tournament. I love coach John Anderson, a no-nonsense guy that runs a quality program year after year! Now flush with a few million bucks seed money from the Pohlad family, owners of the Minnesota Twins, the Gopher Nine will be playing on a new beautiful state-of-the-art open air baseball stadium, on campus! I can’t wait.
Have a great holiday weekend, thanks for today’s read, and feel free to comment on this or other commentaries from this week. In case you missed them, there are some real humdingers in there!