You have to hand it to Norwood Teague, the man's got balls. To fire Tubby Smith after the Gophers won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in forever was gutsy. To do it so quickly after the Gophers were ousted by Florida said to me that Teague had a plan in place and was moving quickly to make it a reality. And now, with Shaka Smart signing an extension through 2023 to stay at VCU I fear things are going to becoming quite icky.
In my mind there's only one more home run hire, and that's Flip (and yes, Brad Stevens but you can forget it). Flip comes with plenty of question marks (but who doesn't) but he's the one I think can be an almost instant program changer. Three things I love:
1) He has a love for the program and the city loves him. There's something about bringing passion to your team that goes deeper than just being the coach that seems to resonate, and having a town behind you can raise the excitement level further which can only help with recruiting and fundraising (which is needed for a practice facility which I'm told is needed to aid recruiting).
2) He already has a relationship with the Big 3. Going beyond that his connections within NBA circles are only going to make playing for him that much more enticing. If Flip ends up being the hire in my opinion getting all three of them at the U suddenly is actually a possibility and I would almost guarantee at least one would stay home. If the hire ends up being anybody else, I'm not optimistic even one becomes a Gopher.
3) He can play a pro-style offense. There's evidence that playing an NBA style game can work at the college level (Florida Gulf Coast's coach is an ex-NBA assistant and he has them playing an NBA type game) so not only can that help win games but it's exciting - which recruits love - and helps players prepare for the NBA - which recruits love.
Last coaching search I was anti-Flip because he was an NBA guy, not a college guy. This time I am all in on Flip for the opposite reason.
My concern is that Teague might not even consider him, because of ego (and I'm not using ego in the negative sense here). Firing Tubby when he did was Teague's way of announcing that this is his athletic department and this is his chance to make a big-time hire, but I can't help but wonder if he'd view hiring Flip as more of Saunders making the decision to come here rather than Teague hiring him. What I mean is, I can see it being looked at as a "Flip hire" rather than a "Teague hire" and I don't know how else to explain it so if you don't get it either you're an idiot or I am and I'm betting it's you.
I think part of it is the Villa 7 thing they've built up, and I don't doubt it's a great thing for all involved, but I can't help but wonder if they're limiting their options by using Villa 7 exclusively when evaluating their options. The top 2 names out there right now seems to Buzz Williams (/makes wanking motion) and Anthony Grant (/yawn) and both have connections to Villa 7. Oh and by the way, there's no reason Buzz Williams would come to Minnesota from Marquette. None. So just stop it. Neither is Fred Hoiberg or any other dream candidate.
I think the plan was Shaka or bust, and they've gone bust. Time to reevaluate and strongly consider Flip Saunders if you're looking for a game changer. Anybody else and we're looking at a slow build, and we just went through a slow build that ended with a whimper on the eve of the best recruiting class the state of Minnesota has ever produced. I can't believe I'm typing this, but the Gophers need Flip.
But I'm pretty sure it's going to be Anthony Grant, which may very well turn out to be great in the long run. I'm just sick of the long run.