Gophers Basketball: 5 Candidates in the Event of a Tubby Smith Firing
Tubby Smith has recorded 20-plus wins in four of five years at Minnesota, with his sixth season likely resulting in the program's highest NCAA tournament seed since the vacated 1996-97 Final Four season.
Unfortunately for Smith, he has yet to record a tournament victory, continues to fail in recruiting battles and has repeatedly proved his in-game adjustments are nonexistent.
This season's veteran-laden team is easily his most talented, but the closing seconds of Sunday's four-point loss to Illinois left only Tubby to blame, as he failed to call a timeout when Trevor Mbakwe was double-teamed inside before turning it over. Furthermore, his allowance of Elliott Eliason to defend Illini guard Tracy Abrams was foolish, as the Gophers forward should have been instructed to waste a foul in order to prevent Abrams from taking advantage of an easy matchup.
It remains unlikely that Smith will be fired following the season, but a quick tourney flop could put the pressure on the "U" administration to make a move, leaving a few intriguing candidates for consideration.
A decade of mid-major assistant positions followed by two years as head coach at Murray State is not an eye-popping resume.
However, 38-year-old Steve Prohm is quickly becoming a hot coaching candidate at the small eastern Kentucky school.
Senior guard Isaiah Canaan captures the notoriety for the NCAA tournament-bound Racers, but Prohm is the next major head coaching product to run through Murray, Kentucky.
Mark Gottfried, Mick Cronin and Billy Kennedy have all translated their success at Murray State into huge opportunities across the country. Someone will certainly grab Prohm upon another NCAA tournament berth this season or next.
Chris Mack has led Xavier to three NCAA tournament appearances in his three years at the helm, two of which resulted in Sweet 16 appearances.
The 40-year-old Cleveland native has proved he can recruit, especially along the East Coast, while routinely developing lower-tier players into championship-caliber producers.
Another school with excellent coaching lineage, Xavier has popped out the likes of Skip Prosser, Thad Matta and Sean Miller.
While the Musketeers are having a down season, Mack remains an elite coaching candidate if offered the right position.
Yes, the tall man with spiked hair and thick black glasses next to Thad Matta has a name, and one that bears a significant amount of weight across the country.
Jeff Boals, in his fourth year as an assistant coach at Ohio State, is known for his recruiting prowess and in-game adjustments, making him an intriguing possibility to jump ship for another Big Ten school.
As a graduate of Ohio University and former assistant at Akron, Boals appears destined to succeed Matta. Unfortunately for Boals, the 45-year-old Matta is not going anywhere.
The Buckeyes assistant has limited experience but could attract elite talent to Minneapolis with the promise of a new practice facility and committed dollars for the next decade from Minnesota AD Norwood Teague.
Another master recruiter, Joe Dooley is one of the best assistant coaches in the nation.
The 47-year-old Dooley only had mid-major experience before joining Bill Self at Kansas in 2003, becoming a staple in the Jayhawks' eight consecutive Big 12 titles and one national title.
A versatile teacher, he could help bring stability to a frustrated program while convincing elite local talent to stay home if Teague is willing to take the risk.
Shaka Smart burst onto the scene with Virginia Commonwealth University's improbable Final Four run in 2011, knocking off the loaded Kansas Jayhawks in process.
His salary was quickly tripled to $1.2 million after only two years following assistant positions at Florida, Clemson and Akron, becoming the nation's hottest commodity in doing so.
"There were some great opportunities that were out there, but this was really less about those opportunities and more about my desire to be here," Smart told USA Today in January, indicating he is satisfied in Richmond.
Former VCU athletic director and current Minnesota AD Norwood Teague hired Smart in 2009 and might be the most likely to lure the 35-year-old away from VCU with impressive guarantees.