Tubby Smith may be headed back to SEC — to Auburn (UPDATE II: Tubby denies rumors)

Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed up, and this might be a good time for him to leave.

Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed up, and this might be a good time for him to leave.

When Tubby Smith left Georgia after only two seasons in 1997, it was for his expected dream job at Kentucky. If he leaves Minnesota after only three, it’s probably to defrost. And possibly to come back to the South.

Smith, who has the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, reportedly is close to becoming the next coach at Auburn, according to CBSSports.com college writer Dennis Dodd.

The report — which follows days of media speculation that Smith could be headed to either Auburn or Oregon — makes a lot of sense. Auburn fired Jeff Lebo immediately following the SEC tournament, and wants to make a splash with this hire. The Tigers are moving into a new $90 million facility next season. They want to hire a proven coach, even if it means paying a significantly higher salary than they’ve paid for a basketball coach in the past.

Welcome to the new SEC, where basketball suddenly matters.

Smith’s return would be a great boost for the SEC. He would give Auburn immediate credibility and obviously create great story lines every time the Tigers play Georgia and Kentucky. For those who’ve never met Smith, he’s one of the nicest, classiest men you’re going to find, a welcome departure in a profession that is overrun with shady characters and self-promoters.

The guy can coach, too. Minnesota went 9-22 in 2006-07, the season before Smith got there. In the three years since, the Gophers have gone 20-13, 20-11 and 21-13 (going into today’s tournament game against Xavier).

(UPDATE: Minnesota just lost to Xavier, 65-54, in the first round of the West Regional. So we should know something fairly soon about Smith’s future.)

(UPDATE II Smith issued this denial after the game: “Obviously, that’s just talk. I’m very pleased with what we’ve accomplished [at Minnesota]. I’m pleased with where we are in the program. I’m looking forward to coming back to Minnesota.”)

They reached the final of the Big Ten tournament championship game before losing to Ohio State (after upsetting the Buckeyes earlier this season). He has recorded 17 straight 20-plus win seasons in his career, going to the NCAA tournament in 16 of those (nine times to at least the Sweet 16, one championship).

Smith probably knows this is as good as it’s going to get at Minnesota, and it would be a good time to exit. Unless he just really enjoys living in Minneapolis. On that note, tonight’s March 19 forecast: 25 degrees with possible flurries.

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165 comments Add your comment

tub o lard

March 19th, 2010
1:16 pm

first! the tub gets around

ASHEVILLE DAWG

March 19th, 2010
1:25 pm

Tubby was a class act atUGA, Wished he had stayed ,but we finally got a nother class act in Mark Fox. Good luck to Tubby Skith wherever you are or go. Just not against the Dawgs.

JB

March 19th, 2010
1:25 pm

Hum……I sure bet Tech wish he was heading there way…….The ACC is big time basketball pedigree conference
and Tech, although in the dance, would loved to be thought of as a Basketball power. Tubby heading back to the SEC doesn’t surprise me…..and with Fox in the house, I’m fine with it.

ASHEVILLE DAWG

March 19th, 2010
1:27 pm

Tubby Smith, I need to fire that proof reader!

wesleywhatwhat

March 19th, 2010
1:37 pm

i agree wth JB, the ACC is lacking in quality coaches and will be continue to have “down years” until that changes.

All I'm Saying...

March 19th, 2010
1:38 pm

That would be a smart move by Auburn to hire Tubby and his propensity to win 20+ games while losing 10 or so would go over fine with the Auburn faithful as it did with UGA. Plus he’s a class act, great person to entrust your son to, and sorely missed given some of the characters we have had in the SEC among basketball coaches (i.e. see Harrick, Jim; Gillespie [sp.], Billy, etc.)

(As we know, Tubby couldn’t hack it in the bluegrass state because Kentucky demanded 25+ wins and less than 10 losses each year along with SEC Championships every other year, Final Four appearances every two to three years, and a NCAA Championship at least twice a decade. No pressure, right? Although have to give props to “Teflon” John Calipari who is on track to deliver all of the above in year one–just hope probation doesn’t follow as has been his history not that anything ever stuck to him).

JB

March 19th, 2010
1:47 pm

yes, Tubby would “fill up” that new facility most game nights, give them 20 wins…some big dance appearances and they would love him…………..the only down side, he appears to bore rather quickly and 3….4 years max is about all they could expect……I think he and Saban use the same realtor.

Boise Dawg

March 19th, 2010
1:54 pm

I understood why he left Georgia for Kentucky… but leaving Minnesota for Auburn makes no sense to me at all. Assuming he hates cold weather so much… why did he take the Minnesota job only to leave after 3 years? He could have waited a year to find the right fit… I don’t like to see guys move around a lot, it is tough on the schools and the players. We blast Kiffin, but Tubby is a class act.

He is a good coach and a good recruiter.. but I don’t think he is a great coach or a great recruiter. He can take Auburn to the tournament most years.. but I’ll be very suprised if he could ever take Auburn beyond the sweet 16… which is probably the same situation at Minnesota.

Oregon(Nike) has invested big time money into upgrading their facilities and with Phil Knight around they will pay big time money for a proven coach… but does he want to live in Oregon?

Tim

March 19th, 2010
1:55 pm

JB,
Funny I don’t think Bama is worried about Saban or Kirby leaving anytime soon. However I could see some additional moving trucks headed towards UGA in the near future. Typically when the HC is forced to fire assistants the end is near…
Roll Tide

Rajesh Koothrappali

March 19th, 2010
1:58 pm

Tubby would not be welome at Georgia Tech due to his background, anyway Coach Hewitt is not going anywhere due to his very large contract but you will hear the end of the complaints after he and Favors lead the Yellow Jackets to this years championship game.

FUZZUP

March 19th, 2010
2:02 pm

Who cares????

JB

March 19th, 2010
2:05 pm

One big Difference Tim…..ours will be fired. Yours won’t be. look, I hope he stays. It’s good for the SEC. We have beat ya’ll 3 of the last 4 meetings, one with Saban. I know the last couple of years have been special, but don’t underestimate what kind of team Georgia could put in front of you to play. As the last two years have been good for you, we’ve had problems. Georgia, as a state, is always loaded with players. We will get our share. You guys had a tough few years with Shula, we’ve had our problems. Hopefully, we’ve really upgraded the defensive side of the ball. Hope to see ya’ll in the Dome this year.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

March 19th, 2010
2:08 pm

what are the chances of Fox pulling a Tubby , a couple of good years and then poof gone on to bigger and easier schools to recruit players too ?

wiley

March 19th, 2010
2:09 pm

What makes you think this is as far as he can get at Minnesota? Minnesota is in a power 6 conference and Tubby has already proved he can recruit there. The Big Ten is a traditional basketball conference with the likes of Indiana, Ilinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin and is far superior to the SEC in terms of basketball. I don’t understand why he would want to come to an Auburn program that has only 8 total NCAA tourney appearances. Its not even a lateral move in my opinion because your coming to play basketball in a weaker conference at a school where basketball has no value in comparison to the football team. Their basketball arena has wooden seats for god sakes…at least they finally decided to build a new arena.

Cherokee

March 19th, 2010
2:10 pm

Tim, are you sure CMR was pressured to fire, if so what is your source? Give the man credit he knew the job wasn’t getting done on the defensive side of the ball. That is why he made the changes. Damon said he had faith that CMR would do what needed to be done for the program. You need to worry about Bama.

Cherokee

March 19th, 2010
2:12 pm

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN… I think I remember reading somewhere Fox’s contract is pretty hard for him to get out of.

cats 4 evah

March 19th, 2010
2:13 pm

JB

March 19th, 2010
2:13 pm

South Ga Dawg Fan: That’s 90% of coach’s in Div 1 under contract. There is little loyalty with coach’s or schools these days.. Trust me, if Fox turns Georgia around in 2 -3 years, basketball “schools” will come sniffing. If got offered by a ACC school with a pedigree in hoops at say 2.5 mil per for 5 years, He’ll call Tubb’s and Saban’s moving company.

MN Gal

March 19th, 2010
2:16 pm

Could you talk about something other than the weather in MN? Yeah, it’s cold up here. But we like it. It keeps the riff-raff out.

charlieho

March 19th, 2010
2:16 pm

Tubby would be making a huge mistake leaving MN, at least from a coaching perspective. The state produces some great big men, who have left for greener pastures until now. With Tubby keeping them in state, he has a chance to have an elite program in an elite league. Outside of KY, the Big Ten has more national prestige than the SEC, regardless of how those of us in the area like to think….

Get Real

March 19th, 2010
2:17 pm

“For those who’ve never met Smith, he’s one of the nicest, classiest men you’re going to find, a welcome departure in a profession that is overrun with shady characters and self-promoters.”

Are you serious?? This guy made all kinds of promises to UGA about getting the program on a role, putting UGA on the basketball map, yadda, yadda, recommends Ron Jirsa for the job (true, Dooley did not HAVE to hire Jirsa), then bolts for UK. Okay, I realize UK basketball is far superior to UGA’s program. I get that. But why make bold statements about making UGA his home then running out to greener, easier pastures?? He is EXACTLY like every other greedy college coach. I would prefer the coach who goes to a particular school and desires to put THAT school on the basketball map.

JA

March 19th, 2010
2:17 pm

Like he’s going to win any more at Auburn — their program has always been mediocre. An interesting article and report. If it’s true then best of luck in a sub-par basketball conference.

Jeff Schultz

March 19th, 2010
2:19 pm

Boise Dawg — Don’t knock Oregon. Eugene is one of the greatest college towns around, and Tubby can be successful there pretty quickly.

JB

March 19th, 2010
2:20 pm

Cherokee, it hard for Bama fans to keep quiet now that they are back on top…..When Shula was there, they would shuffle their feet and stare at the ground when taking football with you.
I know they will say something to me for this, but as A SEC FAN, I’m proud of them for winning it all last year, but dang, they need a little class about it………………..I know, you don’t know how we would act because we ain’t been there ( since 1980)…..just thought I’d beat ya to it. I do hate that they think Saban will finish his career there. he might, and good for them, but history ain’t on their side. I don’t know how old he is, but it’s all about him and he would love nothing more to win a title at his third school.

oldfart

March 19th, 2010
2:22 pm

Whichever dawg is posting as Rajesh whatever…. Fugitaboutit.

Tubby would be welcome considering the alternative. There is the small matter of 7 mil to deal with however.

XAIPE

March 19th, 2010
2:22 pm

As good as it gets at Minnesota…wtf? And Auburn???

Jeff Schultz

March 19th, 2010
2:22 pm

Cherokee – I believe Fox’s contract has a $2 million buyout.

Kurt Morris

March 19th, 2010
2:22 pm

CMR is soft and does not have the ability to win big time year after year. he has won on talent alone in spite of himself and his questionable staff. UGA is not and has not been a BIG time football program for a long, long time. way over-rated in the media. they can compete in SEC but never become dominate.

Mike B

March 19th, 2010
2:23 pm

I really don’t think the weather would have a bearing on his decision to leave Minnesota. Minnesota is a
beautiful state and I am glad I live here. Tubby is a great coach. He was able to get his Minnesota team back to the big dance even though 2 of his recruits are not even able to play (legal reasons) and
another was declared academically ineligible. If he wants to leave he will leave, but I highly doubt the weather will play a factor in his decision.

Jeff Schultz

March 19th, 2010
2:24 pm

MN Gal — That’s true. Riff-raff freeze easily … Seriously, I like Minnesota. Great people, good sports town (Minneapolis-St. Paul). But when you don’t live there, it’s hard for the rest of us to get past the weather.

ChippersLoveChild

March 19th, 2010
2:24 pm

Yep, agree with Wiley. Why move to a weaker conference when he has proven he can begin to win at Minnesotta? Recruiting isn’t an issue, he got Sampson III out of this state… he can win there against better competition. Why leave?

Reid

March 19th, 2010
2:26 pm

Is it really that hard to believe that a person could enjoy living in Minneapolis? Its a great city filled with great people!

JPBinMN

March 19th, 2010
2:28 pm

Tubby to Auburn…no chance. He’s got two players coming back next year after suspension that all but lock up the Big 10 and go to the Final Four. Not to mention global warming is heading this way!!! (LOL)

JB

March 19th, 2010
2:30 pm

Kurt…….if all the SEC and ACC coach’s were all of sudden on the Market to be hired, Richt would be the THIRD guy hired out of 24. My opinion of course, but not off by much. He’s had a tough couple of years DUE TO A TOTAL BREAKDOWN ON THE defensive side of the ball, but I believe he has helped himself. Saban himself tried to hire Grantham at Miami as DC. You’ll see a different approach to Defense come this fall at Georgia.

Kurt Morris

March 19th, 2010
2:30 pm

minnesota is definately a better bb gig than auburn would ever be. gophers can compete as 2nd tier big ten team year after year. auburn is a terrible bb school. maybe he moves but i don’t see why. minnesota is a wonderful place. used to live in duluth – it’s really nice. just cold.

Ben

March 19th, 2010
2:32 pm

As a Gophers fan and Minnesota resident, I have a couple of issues with this article.

First off, what makes you think that “this is as good as it’s going to get” at Minnesota? The Gophers are still a relatively young team. There’s no reason to think they can’t compete for a Big Ten title next year. With Tubby, they’re instantly credible on a national recruiting level.

And as for living in Minneapolis, you need to get out of your bubble. In Minnesota, Tubby gets the kind of respect and privacy from fans, media, and the community that he didn’t at Kentucky. And the weather? We like it. The severity of Minnesota winters is overblown by many people, yourself included. Come on up, we’ll take you out ice fishing. You’ll have a blast.

ND4MN

March 19th, 2010
2:32 pm

Auburn a step up? Doubt it. I will say that Tubby is overrated and I have little respect for guys who are negotiating with other teams while the one they are coaching are involved in an NCAA run. I know it happens all the time, but its not the way we do things in the upper midwest. So maybe he isn’t a good match for the U of M.

Kurt Morris

March 19th, 2010
2:33 pm

JB…..great coaches in 2 conferences are like tight ends in nfl. either you have top two or you have mediocrity. CMR is not even in top 2 in his own conference. maybe not in own division. i mean spurrier does have a national title on his resume.

EBO

March 19th, 2010
2:38 pm

We will miss Tubby if he leaves, he has been a great asset to the Gophers basketball team. I have to agree that the writer of this article surely could find something more interesting to write about than the weather in Mn, that line is getting old.

gdawginkalamazoo

March 19th, 2010
2:40 pm

A 90 million dollar basketball facility? Really? This now raises the value of Auburn’s campus to approximately 5 million dollars.

JB

March 19th, 2010
2:40 pm

Spurrier needs to be playing golf everyday…..Richt has owned him since he’s been there. Wrong time and school for Spurrier. Carolina has gone into complete meltdowns over there under him the last 2-3 years. You must be a Ga. hater….and that’s fine, but if you look at his body of work since he’s been at Georgia and use the term Mediocrity, we are a long way off from having a meaningful discussion. Florida has owned him, but no many other folks can say that.

Mark Bowling

March 19th, 2010
2:41 pm

What exactly makes Tub a class act? And even if we pretend he is, does that qualify you to draw millions of dollars annually as a mediocre coach? After riding the championship team that Pitino left him at UK, Tub systematically destroyed the UK ball program to the point where they were going entire seasons without beating even a single ranked team. Tub got his ONLY Final Four appearance…ever…with the team that Pitino left him for his maiden year at UK. Can you spell OVERrated?

JB

March 19th, 2010
2:45 pm

Hewitt would look good in Auburn…. I bet the Tech folks would Rent the U Haul and load it ….AND unload it….LOL

JB

March 19th, 2010
2:48 pm

25 and snowing in Minn tonight….Auburn 75 and sunny today……plus, I bet Tubbs can’t get a decent Rib in the whole state. Met him at the Masters one year…Had on my Georgia Shirt and he came over to me to talk…..He is a decent guy.

Jansen B. Werner

March 19th, 2010
2:50 pm

Not necessarily “as good as it gets at Minnesota.” The Gophers should have much of this year’s roster back for next season; not to mention Mbakwe should actually get a chance to suit up, Royce White very well could play, and there’s always the potential of having (2) Joseph’s next season… My guess is, after this tumultuous and controversial season Tubby is looking for a getaway from all the extra-curricular nonsense. It doesn’t have that much to do with talent, if it did, why would we go to an SEC “cellar-dweller” like Auburn?

Cmill

March 19th, 2010
2:50 pm

I love Tubby… a class act and I was hoping UGA would hire him last year, but Fox is another great coach. I just hope we don’t have to go up against him every year!

Kurt Morris

March 19th, 2010
2:51 pm

but the problem is that florida is who he has to beat. oh, and tennessee wouldn’t hurt either, especially when you have so much more talent than them. i am in fact not a uga hater. i love the dawgs but vince dooley and larry munson were a long time ago.

The END IS NEAR for Sabin and THE TIDE

March 19th, 2010
2:59 pm

To the writer that suggested moving trucks soon at a certain campus ……… you sir, are correct.

Here is where and why they are gonna be pulling up at A-L-A-B-A-M-A. Nick is the kind of guy that likes to BUILD a prgoram in his image. He as done that now with Alabama. He did that with LSU. The TIDE has been dead for about 15-18 years ……..since the old guy that played for TX A&M and coached there too. Gene Stallings was his name?

Sabin will BOLT to MI after he wins the SEC and/or the NC again this year. He is not the kind of down home guy to sit back on his front porch and rock and talk to the local red necks. He will move on so …………..the MOVING TRUCK ARE GOING TO Tuscaloosa and soon. Besides, Nick’s wife despises B’ham & Tuscalooosa, I have heard.

Nick is leaving regardless. Y’all got what you wanted a NC or two. Congrats but it is over soon. Auburn will start to kick dirt in your face, along with LSU anyway.

Enjoy your last great season for about 15-20 years.

Jeff Schultz

March 19th, 2010
3:00 pm

For those Minnesotans offended that Tubby might leave for another job, look at it this way: The vast majority of his coaching career (as a head coach and assistant) has been spent in the South and he grew up in Maryland. It’s where he and his family are most comfortable.

moratt

March 19th, 2010
3:02 pm

The “best it is going to get” in Minnesota will be far better than what it would be in Auburn. There is just no draw at Auburn, where the football team gets all the hype and attention. In, Minneapolis, where the football program is a joke, Tubby can sit back and bask in the waves of athletic support. The Barn is one of the best arenas in the nation as well, so a new facility isn’t really all that apealing. As far as the weather is concerned, it’s called a wearing a coat.