Scoops: Tubby Smith Needs Two Wins To Feel Safe
If not for an injury to guard Al Nolen three seasons ago, there's a good chance the Gophers would've qualified for the NCAA Tournament a third consecutive year, which would've been a first in program history.
Even so, three NCAA appearances in a five-year stretch at a bottom-feeder Big Ten job qualifies as a miracle, maybe even as epic as the one on 34th Street in New York.
So, why is there a faction of boosters -- even more upset after recruit Gavin Schilling chose Michigan State on Wednesday -- working diligently to boot coach Tubby Smith?
One booster unconnected to that group says Smith has to win two games this weekend to feel safe.
The new regime, led by athletic director Norwood Teague and senior associate athletic director Mike Ellis, have deferred all inquiries on Smith's future until after the season.
But Teague wasn't shy in November and December before the bowl game to offer up glowing praise of football coach Jerry Kill.
"We have a 100 percent confidence in Jerry," Teague said in late November.
Sure, he was forced to address Kill's future with two in-season seizure episodes, but that's a convenient out.
Even going as far back to August and September, Teague wasn't shy to spew superlatives about Kill.
Here's what we know on Smith's future:
• Teague, when asked on 1500 ESPN in February how much buyouts factor into his thinking when deciding to fire a coach: "Not that much, because you know what they are when you do the contract. ... At VCU, I did (coach) Shaka (Smart)'s buyout and I did Tubby (Smith)'s here. ... They don't come into play too much. ... You don't want to spend money foolishly, but not that much." Reminder: 95% of Smith's contract extension was done prior to Teague's arrival, but he was able to get the buyout lowered from north of $3 million to $2.5 million.
• Sources said this week the buzz among the coaching community is assistants Vince Taylor and Ron Jirsa have expressed interest in the vacant Drake job. Another member of the Gophers' staff was a finalist for the Hamline job. Are they just looking for a promotion, or do they realize that the situation is sinking?
• Not that the Georgia and Auburn jobs are opening, but those two schools were run by a "U" official as a soft landing spot for Smith. His response: "Agreed."
• I stand by my report from a month ago that, at minimum, Smith will be asked to make a staff change or maybe two. Smith's old boss, Joel Maturi, never would've thought to ask one of his coaches to make that sort of change. But Teague and Ellis are expected to act differently. What will happen if Smith is asked to relieve his son, Saul, of his assistant duties?
• CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman, who is said to have a good relationship with Teague and Ellis, said on a recent thebiglead.com podcast: "I think Tubby Smith is gonna be gone."
• Smith's buyout is the same -- $2.5 million -- immediately following the 2013-2014 season. In other words, if there's some thought to wait a year, it makes sense to make the move now to give the new coach ample time to recruit star high school juniors Tyus Jones (Apple Valley), Rashad Vaughn (Robbinsdale Cooper) and Reid Travis (DeLaSalle).
• The Gophers have not inquired about Seton Hall transfer guard Aaron Cosby, according to his high school coach John Carroll. The "U" had him on campus for a visit in 2010. Cosby, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from Louisville, was the Pirates' second-leading scorer this season, averaging 12.6 points per game.
• The Gophers had a little over 20% of their football season ticket accounts re-up in the first week to do so. That is highest it has been since they started keeping track four years ago.
• The word from a Vikings source is they feel good about their chances to bring back free agent cornerback Antoine Winfield.
• On Tuesday, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a noted game enthusiast, is teaming up with Radisson to be a judge at their Hackathon event. It's being held at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Radisson and Kluwe are calling on rising talents in gaming development to create an exclusive new mobile simulation game that will allow players to design and operate simulated hotels in an effort to create the ultimate hotel empire.
• There's been no talk with forward Andrei Kirilenko, but a source said the Wolves hope to re-sign him to a three-year deal. Currently, Kirilenko has a $10 million player option for next season. The Wolves hope to lower that cap hit with a longer term deal.
• No surprise, but word has it the Wolves' front office is kicking themselves over not pursuing shooting guard Jamal Crawford more heavily last summer. Crawford has told 1500ESPN.com previously that he thought about playing with point guard Ricky Rubio before the Clippers came calling.
• It's still a safe bet that Wolves' European forward prospect Nemanja Bjelica will be here next year, but talks between the two sides won't take place until after the season.
• The Wolves are not signing Euroleague forward Tony Gaffney before the end of the season, but it turns out they could attempt to bring him in this summer. There is casual interest, according to a league source. Gaffney is currently playing with Joventut Badalona (Spain).
• Free agent designated hitter Jim Thome will head back to Fischer Sports in Phoenix this weekend to resume workouts with his trainer, Brett Fischer. A source close to Thome maintains that he still will only sign if he's offered a major league deal. The Twins would take him, but only on a minor league deal.
• If free agent slugger Vladimir Guerrero wants to resume his career, it'll have to be with a team in Taiwan or Quebec City, according to a league source.