When Tubby Smith stepped down from the most illustrious coaching job in college basketball — you know, the University of Kentucky — he had to have known that the next place to hire him would be sympathetic to his plight:
“We don’t want you to feel any pressure.”
“We think that this could be a long term relationship.”
“Set your own pace — we know that you are worth trusting.”
“What did you say you needed in signing bonuses?”
They’ve been dying for a face lift since Clem Haskins went off the deep end and cheated his team into a successful run during the 1990s. For those of you who don’t remember, Haskins was caught red-handed in a scandal that stripped Minnesota of basically every win, lose or draw during the 90s — all leading back to a woman named Jan Gangelhoff.
The short story — irony slightly intended — is that Gangelhoff essentially wrote over 400 papers for the players on the University of Minnesota basketball team from the years 1993 to 1998. Additionally, she was paid a lump sum of $3,000 to tutor rising prospect, Antoine Broxsie.
Something must have snapped in her, or someone must have pissed her off something royally, because, just before Minnesota took the court to play their first-round game against a then unknown and under-developed team called Gonzaga, Gangelhoff blew the whistle, and the Gophers have since gone down in flames.
Minnesota is 10–3 so far this year and much of that can be attributed to playing a bunch of glorified community colleges and bottom-rung Division I schools, but, don’t kid yourself: Tubby Smith refuses to relinquish the idea that his players and his program will be competing for the Big Ten championship by 2010.
One of the most impressive statistics that Smith can boast is his overall career coaching records, which include his hard work at two SEC schools, Georgia and Kentucky. Through today, his record is worthy of more respect than most: 397–148.
As he approaches his 400th win, and does so with a lineup that only mildly resembles a traditional Big Ten school, fans of the conference should be on the look out for their first major upset, coming not at the hands of the Gopher squad’s innate talents, but at the hands of the tough, no-nonsense caliber basketball that Smith is accustomed to coaching. The guy knows how to pull wins out of nowhere. And even losses point to brighter days. Just look to last week, when Michigan State was lucky to pull out the W at home against an aggressive Minnesota squad.
A trip to the NIT would be a coup for the Gophers this year, and by my guesstimates, they’ll be able to host a game or two and maybe head to the Big Apple come March by pulling out a (weak, sure) 7–11 Big Ten record. Dan Coleman is most likely a second-team All Big-Ten player, and his supporting cast of Spencer Tollackson and Lawrence McKenzie should add enough firepower to help them defend their home court.
Last week, in this very column, I said the Gophers weren’t as good as their record looks and this week I stand by that — but not without thinking twice about who is steering that ship.
Let’s see what’s on tap for this week:
Season Record: 75–20
Last Week’s Record: 7–2
Big Ten Record: 7–2
TUESDAY, JANUARY 8
Michigan State 78
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9
Ohio State 65
THURSDAY, JANUARY 10
SATURDAY, JANUARY 12
Penn State 69
Ohio State 59
Michigan State 81
SUNDAY, JANUARY 13