It seems like every time a BCS-level job comes open, Tubby Smith’s name is mentioned prominently as a possible hire. His name has been dropped everywhere from Oregon (prior to Dana Altman’s hiring) to LSU (where Johnny Jones took over for the recently departed Trent Johnson) and everywhere in-between. It begs the question: is Tubby Smith really going anywhere?
Smith took the Kentucky Wildcats to the 1998 national title, but stumbled to a pair of unacceptable (by Lexington standards) 9-7 SEC campaigns before departing for Minnesota in 2007. Smith left of his own volition, but many felt he was fleeing town one step ahead of the metaphorical posse.
The not-so-subtle implication is that nobody in his right mind — least of all a coach who had been to the mountain top with Kentucky — would want to stay in Minneapolis for the long haul. Tubby Smith himself has never given any indication that he’s restless nor lent any credence to the rumor mill that surrounds him on a near-constant basis during the offseason.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if other programs are using Tubby to generate buzz,” says Jonathan Foster of the Minnesota-centric blog From the Barn. “They know that Tubby is a big name coach, and they know that the perception exists that Tubby Smith wants out. So why not leak his name when it comes to potential coaching candidates? The athletic director doing the hiring can at least claim he went after a big name, which tends to appease the masses that think their program deserves a big name coach.”
Foster’s take has merit. As often as Smith’s name is brought up in coaching searches, he never seems to physically turn up in any of the towns he’s supposedly itching to burn rubber to. He never exhibits the merest public twitch of dislike for his home of the past five-plus years, either. In fact, he seems to genuinely enjoy the Twin Cities.
“He has frequently mentioned how much he enjoys living on the river front, within walking distance to work. He appreciates living in a historic neighborhood, in a thriving city with parks, theater, music, food, etc that can compete with any big city in the country,” Foster said. “He has stuck around for the same reasons that many people in Minneapolis have. He just happens to coach a basketball team.”
Tubby Smith is 60 years old. He may very well intend to finish out his career at Minnesota. He may not. But it may be time to put the kibosh on the idea that he’s dying to escape his present gig. Smith would obviously take a hard look at a big-money offer from a team in position to contend right away, should such a thing come his way in the next five years. Absent an encounter with that near-mythological beast, don’t be surprised to see Tubby Smith in maroon and gold for keeps.