Goodness knows, Damon Evans is splendid as the athletics director at the University of Georgia. He’s bright. He’s engaging. He’s also persistent. In other words, he knows what he’s doing. But I’m here to help.
With Evans and his search committee having trouble closing the deal on a replacement for fired basketball coach Dennis Felton, I have a suggestion. In fact, I have two suggestions.
They are suggestions I’ve mentioned before in this space, and are suggestions that would match everything that Evans needs to turn his basketball program from less than mediocre into consistently good. He wants somebody who can coach. He wants somebody who can recruit. He wants somebody who is into developing the “student” as well as the “athlete” in student-athlete. He wants somebody with charisma.
All together now . . . Tubby Smith. Remember that guy? He’s the former Georgia coach who did wonderful things at Tulsa before doing the same during his two seasons with the Bulldogs. He also took Kentucky to a national championship after leaving Athens for Lexington.
Smith has spent the last two seasons coaching Minnesota into prominence. But it’s Minnesota, and it’s cold in Minnesota. It’s warm in Georgia, where Smith and his wife, Donna, loved their experience in Athens, and here’s another thing: Smith is pleading with the folks at Minnesota to build a basketball practice facility on campus. The Bulldogs already have one, and it’s perhaps the best in the nation at $35 million.
Actually, there’s more: When a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked Smith earlier this week if he definitely will coach the Gophers next season, Smith said, “I never say never, but I’m here. I’m happy where we are. ‘Cause once you say [never], something happens, then everybody’s going to jump on you like you’re some demon or something. So I just say, at this time, I’m very happy here.”
As for Choice No. 2, I told you a few weeks ago about my intriguing conversation in southern California with Craig Robinson, 46, the Oregon State coach who just happens to be the brother-in-law of the President of the United States.
Robinson just finished his first season at Oregon State and led the Beavers to seven victories in the Pac-10, compared to the zero they won the year before. Before that, he led Brown to a school-record 19 victories after the second of his two years at that Ivy League school. He can recruit, too. According to rivals.com, he just had the nation’s 22nd-best class. Plus, he is so insistent that his players speak correctly that he has a dictionary and thesaurus in the Oregon State locker room.
Did I mention that Robinson is as captivating in public and private as his sister, Michelle, and Barack Obama?
Let’s see. The obscurity of Oregon State or potential stardom at Georgia, especially with all of that basketball talent in the state these days. Yeah, Robinson would take the Bulldogs job in a minute.
The same goes for Smith.
Just make the call (or calls), Damon.