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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tubby To Minny

Minnesota made a smart, safe move by officially naming Tubby Smith as its new head coach on Friday.

Ignoring the perception that Kentucky was slipping in its recruiting and its results under Tubby, the man does have a national title under his belt. Not many current coaches in the midwest can say that. This alone can get Minnesota's foot in the door with some high-profile recruits that have been escaping the Twin Cities in recent years. So the next Cole Aldrich (Kansas-bound) that comes through town may think twice before spurning the Gophers.

Apparently Minnesota decided that making a big-name splash was the most important factor in the hiring. Mission accomplished. The move immediately legitimizes a troubled program, if only for the tight ship that Tubby runs. Methinks we've seen the last of the easy wins at Williams Arena, given the makeup of the Gopher roster next year under a real head coach.

The object of Minnesota's hiring desire ran the gamut throughout the extended vacancy, from Flip Saunders of the Detroit Pistons (hah!) to Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery, allegedly, in recent days. Washington State's Tony Bennett appeared both too loyal and too unproven, while Dan Altman of Creighton was a potential mid-major option. Ultimately the sting of the Dan Monson era was too recent to go the up-and-comer route again with Lowery, Bennett or Altman.

So that leaves both Michigan and Iowa to find their own headline-grabbing hire. Ernie Kent can already recruit Detroit well all the way from the West Coast, but I think Michigan will steer clear. Brian Cook effectively outlines his favorite possibilities for the Wolverines in his blog. The Hawkeyes might be spinning their wheels with national candidates (Bruce Pearl back in Iowa City?) instead of looking at someone like Altman.

But as Minnesota proved, even a blind Gopher can find a nut once in a while.

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