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The Big Board of Gopher Basketball Coaching Candidates, Will Shaka Smart Replace Tubby Smith?


In today's coaching change cycle, you have about 5 seconds to reflect on the outgoing staff before it is time to focus on who will be coming to replace him. There is clearly a short-list of candidates that Gopher fans have on their list of "Tubby Smith" type hires. Shaka Smart with this ties to Norwood Teague at VCU, Flip Saunders because he is unemployed and a U alumn are the obvious early favorites. But what about Florida Gulf Coast's Andy Enfield, or maybe just hire his wife Amanda Marcum? What recruit could say no?

Anyway, it is important to note that while at VCU Teague and Mike Ellis created the Villa 7 for Sports Leadership. This was a place for athletic directors to interact with and discuss things with some of the nations' elite assistant basketball coaches. You can bet that certain relationships were formed that may play out in this coaching hire.

Let's take a semi-realistic look at possible replacements for Tubby Smith.

(these names are all in no particular order)

Tier 1

this is really a two horse race and I think we'd all be thrilled with either of these two.

Shaka Smart - VCU

  • Why Shaka - He has obvious ties to Norwood Teague and Sr. Associate AD, Mike Ellis. He has been very successful at VCU and employs a brand of basketball that would be a lot of fun to watch. This hire would set a fire under season ticket sales and there would be some obvious excitement for next fall. This would be a home run.
  • Why Not Shaka - he's turned down numerous other jobs, many better than this one. Some think this is a pipe dream, some think we have a shot. A phone call better be made.

Flip Saunders - NBA (unemployed)

  • Why Flip - NBA resume with some actual success at times. Flip would bring a different brand of basketball to not only the Barn but also to the Big Ten. I believe that he would most resemble Tom Izzo with an offense that relies on execution with plenty of set plays to get baskets for their offensive weapons. Oh, and Flip is a U grad. He would take some pride into building this program into a better program.
  • Why Not Flip - he has been thrice fired in the NBA and has little to no recruiting experience. He would have to hire a couple of strong assistants with college experience. His son and Trent Tucker would not count.

Tier 2

don't sleep on these names, mostly mid-major coaches with some success

Buzz Williams - Marquette

  • Why Buzz - cool name is probably the only reason. Oh, and the fact that he has done spectacularly well at Marquette. He is already in a high major conference and understands the regional recruiting scene.
  • Why Not Buzz - Would this be a lateral move for Williams? And at Marquette he is a successful head coach of the only revenue sport at the university. He doesn't have to compete with football.

Brad Stevens - Butler - for the record, Stevens is only "tier 2" because I don't think there is even a remote chance he'll think about taking this job. I firmly believe he and Smart are the two best young coaches out there.

  • Why Stevens - He also has a relationship with Teague and would be an absolute home run hire. There are some sexier names above but this one might actually be the best basketball hire of anyone on this list.
  • Why Not Stevens - He likes Butler and has turned down multiple other offers. I think he will be at Butler for a very long time.

Josh Pastner - Memphis

  • Why Pastner - is a Villa 7 member(?) and his success at Memphis would make him more than qualified to coach at Minnesota. Great recruiter and we'd get to see an up-tempo, dribble-drive offense at The Barn.
  • Why Not Pastner - I think the U would be thrilled to land him, I'm not sure why he would have any interest in Minnesota.

Chris Mooney - Richmond

  • Why Mooney - has a relationship with Teague and has been very successful with the Spiders. He took a poor Richmond program and turned it around including back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
  • Why Not Mooney - He wouldn't be the most exciting hire considering his teams have been in the middle of the A10 pack the last two seasons.

Ben Jacobson - Northern Iowa

  • Why Jacobson - he has been successful at Northern Iowa and has strong regional ties. North Dakota kid who coached and UND, NDSU and Northern Iowa. Five straight 20-win seasons or more, two NCAA Tournament appearances including a run to the Sweet 16. He employs a successful brand of basketball and with some local ties he might be a solid recruiter.
  • Why Not Jacobson - this doesn't exactly fire up the fan base and recruiting the top-notch local kids might be more of a challenge.

Gregg Marshall - Wichita State

  • Why Marshall - The Shockers have had quite a bit of recent success in the Missouri Valley and Marshall has been targeted at least a few times in recent offseasons. He was also very successful at Winthrop where he made seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons.
  • Why Not Marshall - like Smart, he has turned down other jobs. And considering his team is still competing in the NCAA Tournament, Teague may move before Marshall would be able to really compete for the job (if he even wanted it).

Tier 3

Others who you might hear about...

  • Andy Enfield - Florida Gulf Coast - HIGHLY UNLIKELY, just throwing it out there
  • Erik Mussleman - father was a Gopher coach and is developing a name as a great assistant at Arizona State. Might make a great hire for Flip to be his top assistant!
  • Anthony Grant - Alabama coach, Villa 7 alum and formerly hired by Teague at VCU.
  • searching for higher profile assistants around the country might be a good idea here!

My opinion? After Smart and Flip then things get really interesting. There are some great names on that list but the question is, how many of them would even be interested in the job? Many are a huge reach, but I'm just listing names at this point.