Things move pretty fast. Before I could even finish wondering what I was going to write about the Gophers this weekend while trying to piece together what actually happened from Bogart and Bear, the Gophers are done, Tubby is out, and it already feels like old news that the Gophers won a game, so it's time to move one. A few notes from our weekend in Chicago:
1. Andre Hollins is awesome, and would be even more so if he didn't have to be the #1 ball-handler.
2. I think I'm going to miss Rodney Williams more than any other Gopher I can remember, just because you knew he was going to do something in almost every game that would make your jaw drop.
3. When the waitress describes a Tucson Trashcan as "basically a Long-Island Iced tea but with red bull instead of coke and it comes in a 32-oz glass" you're probably better off skipping it, and it's definitely not wise to have each person order their own particularly at one in the afternoon.
4. The biggest danger of firing Tubby, in my opinion, isn't that it might hurt getting Travis, Vaughn, or Jones because I have yet to hear or read anything that makes me think Tubby was remotely close to landing any of those guys. I think the biggest danger is losing anyone off this year's team, specifically the Hollins's or Elliason because I don't know how you'd replace any of them.
So now what? I know the majority of hardcore Gopher fans either straight up wanted
Tubby fired or, like me, certainly don't have a problem with it but the odds are just as great this is a step back as much as it is a step forward. Despite all the issues and wasted opportunities Tubby Smith certainly wasn't a "terrible" coach even if I called him such in the heat of the moment. He brought respectability back to the program, getting top 100 recruits to come to Minneapolis (and some of them even stayed), keeping the top Minnesota kids home (except for the one who got kicked out), and bringing the Gophers to 3 NCAA Tournaments in six years, a monumental task when you look at the years prior to his arrival, even winning a game this year.
Given all that, from the outside I can understand some of confusion about this move around the nation, even if the anger is pretty clearly misplaced and coming from somewhere it shouldn't, but anyone who follows the program knows this is as far as Smith is taking the Gophers, that much became clear and despite what some analysts think I believe we can get more out of this program. There is plenty of risk as I mentioned because it's not easy to recruit here - no practice facility, it's freezing during the biggest recruiting period (which means all the girls are bundled up which gives southern teams another advantage), and although if you grew up with the Barn you love it you could make a pretty compelling argument to a 17-18 year old kid that it's a dump. With Nebraska throwing all that money at the basketball program, Iowa returning to respectability, and Iowa State and Fred Hoiberg suddenly a hot destination things are just going to get tougher. Remember when Glen Mason was fired for being consistently mediocre which led to the program falling off a cliff? That's why this hire needs to be a home run.
Who would be a home run? I see three different tiers of hire:
1) The dream hires. Shaka Smart starts this list, and with his past with Teague and Ellis it's more possible than many seem to think, although with UCLA out there as well that makes it a bit more iffy, in my opinion. He has risk - specifically if he can recruit at this level if Havoc will work in the Big 10 (Michigan says no) - but he's still the #1 hire out there because every other dream hire has risks as well. I'd put just three other guys up here and two of them (Gregg Marshall, Brad Stevens) would have recruiting questions (and I don't think either would take the job) and Flip Saunders certainly has connections but who knows if he can coach or recruit at this level? Based on the success of Hoiberg in Ames, however, as well as Flip's clear passion for the program that jumps out if you follow him on Twitter he's won me over from "Meh" to "Yeah, I'll call him a dream hire."
1a) There's a few guys I can think of who although I wouldn't consider them "dream hires" I wouldn't hate them like the tier 3 guys below either - Chris Mack (Xavier), Anthony Grant (Alabama), Josh Pastner (Memphis), Buzz Williams (Marquette) - and a few others I can't think of off the top of my head. Although I'd be on board with these guys and others, I doubt any of them take the job. If they do, we re-evaluate, but I'd consider any of those guys as a good pick up.
2) Good hires who will underwhelm based on name alone. Closely related to tier 3 below, it's tough to really call out any of these because by definition they're guys very few of us will have heard of who Teague and Ellis identified thanks to the Villa 7 program. This could be anyone from the Florida Gulf Coast guy (I trust these guys can recognize a flash-in-the-pan vs. an actual coaching genius) or an assistant from some other program (although please not anyone from Wisconsin, I couldn't handle that style of play). This will be the kind of hire that will get plenty of less informed fans all riled up and get guys like Mike Wilbon to gloat about the Gophers making a mistake letting Tubby go. Trust me, if Teague goes in this direction you should consider that a positive. The real mistake would be hiring someone from tier 3.
3) Bad hires with name recognition. Chris Mooney would be a terrible hire because he's just like Dan Monson, who got hot at the right time and then sucked. Richmond has been horrible since they're sweet 16 run a couple of years ago. Ben Howland would be terrible because he was just run out of UCLA and would just be another Tubby Smith hire. I kind of feel the same way about Jay Wright from Villanova, but I'd place him a step above these guys I guess. Bruce Pearl is super duper annoying and can't really coach although he's a hell of a recruiter as long as he's cheating, and I've always supported cheating but I still don't really want this guy.
Bottom line? I think Teague was pretty much ready to make a change when he arrived, and this season confirmed in his mind that he could do better. I think he and Ellis are very confident in their ability to land a coach who can bring this program to the next level after their success with Anthony Grant, Shaka Smart, and the overall success of coaches connected to the Villa 7 program. I was ready for a change as well, so I'm willing to believe in them until they give me a reason not to. I was behind Tubby for five years, so I'm willing to give the new management at least that long.