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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Would Tubby Smith to Auburn make sense?

Click here to read my story in today's newspaper about all the drama surrounding (possible) Auburn coaching candidate Tubby Smith. At this point, there's really no real indication if a) Smith has had any contact with Auburn and b) he'd be interested in the job in the first place.

I've got a poll on the right asking if you think Smith would be the right hire for Auburn. Not the "best" hire. The "right" one. There's no doubt Smith would give Auburn instant credibility as a basketball school, but like every coach, there are plenty of reasons to think that hiring him would work and plenty of reasons to think that it wouldn't. For argument's sake, here are a few things to consider.

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Why it makes sense ...
  • Smith has won everywhere he's gone. From Tulsa to Georgia to Kentucky to Minnesota. The Gophers were a Big Ten afterthought when Smith went there, not fully back from the academic cheating scandal under Clem Haskins' watch over a decade ago. And he's won 20 games in every year he's been there. That's not impressive. That's miraculous. If Auburn is serious about getting its basketball program turned around, Smith can do it. So from the Tigers' perspective, it makes all the sense in the world.
  • Money. Minnesota is under a university-wide wage freeze and won't give Smith a raise. (Why does somebody making $2 million a year need a raise? Beats me.) If he does want more money, even the Gophers' AD says he'll have to go elsewhere to get it. Oregon, which is funded by Nike founder Phil Knight, can do it. Auburn claims it will increase its commitment to basketball. A salary pushing $2 million for a hoops coach would certainly get that point across and may be enough to entice Tubby to leave the Great White North.
  • Smith has lobbied for a new practice facility in Minnesota since being hired. The Gophers just finished building a new football stadium and money is tight. In fact, there's been no money raised for a new practice facility yet. The project remains in the planning stages, which is to say it's still years away from being complete ... at best. If Smith doesn't want to wait that out, Auburn's got a brand-spanking-new arena ready to open next fall. And I hear it has adjoining practice courts.
Why it doesn't make sense ...
  • Let's start with the money again. Keep in mind that football coach Gene Chizik makes $2.1 million a year. This is Auburn, after all. Is the school really going to pay a basketball coach as much or more than what it's paying it's football coach? Let's keep things in perspective (or at least the football-first perspective that is prevalent on the Plains). Athletics director Jay Jacobs says he's committed to being financially competitive in the SEC with this hire. I see that as being in the $1.3 to $1.6 million range, though, not near $2 million. If it is indeed about money for Smith, expecting Auburn to pony up $2 million a season is a stretch.
  • Why Auburn? ESPN Andy Katz tweeted a good point earlier Friday. Smith had the best job in the SEC and left it on his own volition. Why would he then take what is considered by many to be the worst job in the conference? What's the draw, other than the new arena? Smith turned his brief success at Georgia into a prime job at Kentucky. And after he got sick of the Big Blue's constant complaining, he took the initiative and bolted for a low-pressure situation in Minnesota. I don't see as clear cut of a reason to leave for Auburn.
What does everyone else think?


Anonymous said...

He's NOT an Auburn man.

And he's not the fit for the program. He's 58, and his teams at Minnesota have underachieved every year. Plus, he hasn't done squat with the players he has recruited, even at Kentucky. At UK, he won the title with players recruited by the previous head coach.

Not only do I vote no, but HELL NO to Tubby Smith. Why not just go after John Wooden? He's still breathing, and is considered one of the greatest college coaches of all time. (No, I am not being entirely facetious with this suggestion)

Unknown said...

With a 71% career winning percentage, and 17 consecutive seasons with 20+ wins, I don't know that "underachieved" is the most accurate description. And what the heck does it mean to say he's "NOT" an "Auburn man?" He didn't play for Auburn? So what. What's the rationale for demanding that we hire a former player? Seems arbitrary. He's a decent and classy person, and well respected. That's "Auburn man" enough for me. Geez. Plus, he's won a national championship (yes, with Pitino's players). Lousy coaches don't win national championships no matter whose players they have.

Plus, just because he left Kentucky of his own volition doesn't mean he'd never desire to return to the SEC. I live in Louisville, KY, and I'm not surprised a bit that he got fed up with irrational Kentucky fans and left after 10 years (any more than I'd be surprised if Saban got tired of irrational Alabama fans and bolted one day).

Anonymous said...

My initial reaction is that I would prefer a younger coach with a high-energy style of play. I guess Tubby has to play with what he has but Minn. but the little I saw of Minn in the NCAAs was not that impressive.

Anonymous said...

He has taken Minnesota to 2 consecutive NCAA Tourney births for the first time in YEARS. Minnesota doesn't get a hotbed of talent. Do you realize he has not won less than 20 games since 1993 when he was at Tulsa (his first head job?).

Learn the facts people!

Anonymous said...

One more thing... Doesn't Any Katz realize that Auburn is a much more warmer climate than Minnesota?? Tubby has coached in the South thru much of his coaching career. I'd rather complete my coaching career in a warmer climate any day of the week!

Luke Stamps said...

If Auburn has a shot at a coach with a national championship, why would we not go for it? Over his career Smith is averaging 23 wins a season. Just to put that into perspective, Auburn's 24 win season in 2008-09 was the second most in school history. Let's be honest, the bar at Auburn is not nearly as high as it is at UK. If Tubby could give us several good years and put us on the map nationally, he could build a foundation for the future. What's the alternative? Another crap shoot at a young, unproven coach?

Andy Bitter said...

A couple things ...

1) Minnesota was a basketball wasteland before Tubby got there, with one 20-win season in the previous eight years before Tubby got there. That the Gophers have three (3!) under Smith is amazing.

2) He is pretty old for a coach. That's why I wonder if he'd be looking for some sort of situation where he could eventually hand things off to his son Saul. It worked for Dick Bennett-Tony Bennett. Not as well for Bob Knight-Pat Knight.

3) Going with a young, unproven coach doesn't always work out. How many times does some fast-rising guy get a plush job and not deliver? There's would be a comfort factor in knowing Tubby would get things turned around, simply because he's done it everywhere he's been. Auburn might be a tall task for a coach who's background isn't as extensive.

ATCVX said...

I don't necessarily disagree with anyone on the points of Tubby. I guess for me it comes down to a few things:

1. If you could tell me Auburn could 'potentially' be set up with a coach that could put us in a position to where we can win 20+ games a year and make the NCAA tourney on a consistent basis, I'd have to say let's take a run at him. Out of all the potential coaches out there right now, I can't see one with a better resume' than Smith.

2. Yes, he's older but he's not like Bob Knight where if you kept up with them you could see his teams decline for the last few years and he continued to lose touch with the 'new' generation of athletes. I can see where some might see Tubby as an underachiever, but he kept Kentucky near the top of the SEC for his whole tenure and least was a threat to go far in the tourney every year.

I see where I could continue going on an on I guess I'll just end it with this: I'll gladly take Tubby Smith at Auburn without many reservations, I really do think that he could take AU to another level...would it be a Championship level...I dunno, i'm fairly realistic about AU basketball but I honestly don't think it should be the 'worst' job in the SEC.

If not Tubby, I really don't see anyone out there with a better resume' other than some coaches that look an awful lot like Lebo when we got him, folks that have had some good mid major teams with potential but not much more

easyedwin said...

I am comfortable with Tubby.

ExKnightMike said...

I hope we can get Tubby Smith, but I don't know how realistic that is.

As far as him making more than the football coach, well he should. Tubby Smith is a proven coach; a future hall of fame coach. 16 NCAA's in 17 years says it all.

Chizik is a young, unproven coach. If he can improve on 8-5 he'll be getting raises. If not, he'll be getting fired. In the meantime, Tubby Smith is light years ahead of Chizik as far as being a proven head coach.

And 58 IS NOT old! :)

AlanforAU said...

I will take an "underachieving" Tubby Smith ANY day. Underachiever, I can not believe anyone would use that term with Coach Smith. Especially after the last three years at the U of M....

THANKS for all you do Andy, it is appreciated!