Gophers struggle to find replacement for Tubby Smith - KMSP-TV

Gophers struggle to find replacement for Tubby Smith

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The decision to fire coach Tubby Smith came swiftly, but the search for his replacement is anything but.

It may seem like the post is one no one wants to fill, but the problem isn't with the job itself -- it's with the perception. Each day the gig remains open, it looks a little less glamorous.

Ego is also certainly involved. No one likes to be second choice -- or the last, but eight days after Smith was given his walking papers and a cool $2.5 million, Athletic Director Norwood Teague is still looking for his successor.

"I felt, by far, it was the best decision we could make right now," Teague said of the decision.

One by one, all the names on the A-list have reportedly turned down Teague's offer or simply wasn't interested. That group included Shaka Smart, of Virginia Commonwealth; Mick Cronin, at Cincinnati; Fred Hoiberg, at Iowa State; and even University of Minnesota alumni and former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders.

"What's really changed is: Before, you could get a mid-major and they would jump at the job," explained former Gophers coach Jim Dutcher.

Unlike in Dutcher's day, mid-major coaches now bring in millions and have more job security; however, he says it's not time to panic yet.

"If you're worried about a coach that has name recognition, you should be concerned. If you want a good coach, you shouldn't worry," he said.

Dutcher suggests looking for someone promising, like Andy Enfield of Florida Gold Coast. He was just snatched up after his team's Cinderella run in the NCAA. Dwayne Stevens, an assistant at Michigan State, and Tim Miles, of Nebraska, are still available.

If the Gophers are looking for trouble, there's always Mike Rice, of Rutgers. He may be fired any day after video surfaced of him hurling balls at players.

"It's looking a little like a pie in your face," said sports analyst Greg Cyklowski.

According to Cyklowski, the job's got an image problem and that may be putting Teague in a tizzy that could mean the team is less likely to land a heavy-hitter.

"Star power is what's going to shake this university up and put us on the map," he said. "We've lost our edge."

Dutcher isn't so dismal in his prediction.

"The name sells the press conference," he said. "The job he does in the next five years spells the program."

As for students returning from spring break, the struggle to fill Smith's shoes has made them feel a little bit nostalgic -- but in Lubbock, Smith said he's already got his cowboy boots after scoring a six-year deal with the Red Raiders that will pay him $1.8 million a year.

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