Tubby Smith Fired: Will Minnesota Shoot the Moon and Land VCU's Shaka Smart?
Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague canned Tubby Smith on Monday, and the move could either bring "Havoc" or havoc to Minneapolis.
The first Havoc is that of Shaka Smart, the golden-boy coach whom Teague discovered and hired at Virginia Commonwealth four years ago.
The second scenario is if Smart turns his old boss down, this could be a bad look for Minnesota.
Teague is clearly taking a gamble that his relationship with Smart will pay off. Smart was an unknown 31-year-old assistant at Florida in 2009 and probably does owe Teague for giving him a chance.
When Teague left VCU for Minnesota in April 2012, Smart said (via the Richmond Times-Dispatch) that Teague "had a profound effect on my life and career. He took an interest in me as a young assistant coach, gave me a phenomenal opportunity at VCU, and wholeheartedly supported us every step of the way over the past three years.
"He demonstrated an uncommon loyalty and genuine care for me as a coach and as a person. Norwood is a terrific communicator who has a fantastic way with people. He will find great success at Minnesota."
That's nice and all, but how much does loyalty really matter in college athletics anymore?
Smart, to his credit, has been loyal to VCU and has turned down higher-profile jobs to remain at the small Colonial Athletic Association school. On the surface, this looks like loyalty. In reality, it was a wise move by Smart to continue to put up great results in a smaller conference while he waited for that perfect job to open up.
That perfect job could be UCLA, and that's who Teague will likely be battling for Smart's services over the coming weeks.
Smart could go to UCLA, a national brand that appeals to recruits, and have all the resources he needs to be successful. Or he could go fight in the Big Ten at a school without a practice facility. But hey, his good buddy is there!
Smart money is on the Bruins.
What Norwood Teague is doing with Minnesota's money will be a question that he has to answer if he swings and misses with his old flame.
Minnesota has to pay Smith a $2.5 million buyout, a number that balloons to $3.35 million when a few extra incentives are added in, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. That number would have been only $1.5 million if Teague had not given Smith an extension last summer after the Gophers finished 6-12 in the Big Ten for the second straight season.
The fact that Minnesota is now moving on from Smith is not all that shocking. The fanbase was growing restless as the Gophers seemed to consistently underachieve. They also never finished above sixth place in the Big Ten during Smith's six seasons in the Twin Cities.
Smart would give the program new life. He would excite any fanbase, especially Minnesota's.
Who will be Minnesota's next coach?
Teague was visionary in hiring Smart, and could make the right call again. Associate AD Mike Ellis, who followed Teague to Minnesota, helped start Villa 7 at VCU, a program that each year brings together top assistant coaches and athletic directors. That's where Teague discovered Smart.
Teague and Ellis have always been out ahead trying to find the next big thing in coaching, and hopefully they are banking on themselves being able to do that again.
But if it's Smart that Teague wants and believes he can land, he should take a step back and ask himself what he would tell Smart if another middle-of-the-pack Big Ten school and UCLA both came calling.
He's not going to like the answer.
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