For the past couple months there has been a ton of angst among Gopher fans about the current state of the Gopher Basketball program. It was apparently time for Tubby Smith to go for a myriad of reasons, but largely because the program has appeared to stagnate without any signs of recovery.
I'm not here to discuss if the firing was the right or a good or a prudent decision today. I'm here to take a look at the program and give a complimentary pat on the back to Tubby Smith on his way out.
The Gopher program has bee mediocre for almost the entirety of Smith's tenure. There have been some ups and signs of life that have been derailed by injuries, transfers, suspensions and bad inbounds plays. But the overall state of the program is not nearly as bad as some reaction throughout the season would lead you to believe.
The fact is the program is in much better shape now than when Tubby Smith took over. For all of the gnashing of teeth over February records, recruiting misses, lack of responsibility for failures, inbounds plays and lack of player development...Smith got this program back on it's feet and he did it without cutting corners.
When Tubby came flying into town he was taking over a program that had gone 8-24 in the Big Ten over it's previous two seasons. This was a bottom-tier program at the time. Here is what Tubby proceeded to do with the program...
- Three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last five seasons. A feat the Clem Haskins matched, did not surpass. In fact in Clem's first 6 seasons he made 1 NCAA Tournament.
- Season ticket sales and single game ticket sales skyrocketed when initially hired.
- Five 20-win seasons out of six.
- Wins over top 10 ranked teams. Louisville 2008, Butler 2009, Purdue 2010, North Carolina 2011, Indiana 2012 and Indiana 2013.
- For all the talk about Clem era, Tubby's overall win% in his six seasons was .605, Clem's in his first six seasons was .497.
- Recruiting was terrible you say? There were some misses and a couple of wasted scholarships but Tubby was able to sign Royce White, Rodney Williams, Devoe Joseph, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Ralph Sampson III. Say what you want about how they developed, but he kept the key in-state players here and he brought in some talented outstate kids to supplement. Not a perfect record, but nobody does and there are some very nice pick-ups in there.
At times this program looked ready to take off. But for a myriad of reasons it never did, it plateaued and it was time to move on. The excuses started to pile up. We started losing recruiting battles to Iowa and Nebraska on top of already consistently losing recruiting battles to the likes of Wisconsin and Michigan State. Season tickets sales dropped as sharply as they initially rose. And losses to Nebraska and Northwestern negated the momentum built by wins over Michigan State and Indiana.
It was time for the University of Minnesota to move on. Tubby, by all accounts, ran a clean program. Kids were graduating, the Barn returned to some of it's former magic, we were a near regular in the NCAA Tournament and we managed to win a post season game that mattered. Those are good things. Tubby took this program from the mess that it was and placed on solid ground. I'm not here to say thank you to anybody for bringing us to mediocrity, but it is reasonable to acknowledge that Tubby's tenure was not the complete trainwreck some are making it out to be. The program is in better shape than when he found it, the responsibility is on Teague and his next hire to do the same.