Friday, March 23, 2007

Why I Hate Chris Webber

The Gophers got their one-name coach on Thursday. Alas, that one name was not “Flip.” Welcome aboard, Tubby.

It’s all Chris Webber’s fault, really. He was supposed to submarine the Pistons, freeing Flip back home to the Barn. The fan base was ready. The loudest cheers of the Gophers’ season came when Flip appeared on the court at halftime to celebrate the anniversary of some old Big Ten title or something. “We Want Flip! We Want Flip!”

Instead, the Pistons took off, and are sitting pretty to make another run at an Eastern Conference crown. So, so much for that.

Tubby Smith was in a tough spot in Kentucky, and needed out. The Gophers were in a tough spot with the whole “worst record in the history of the program” thing to deal with. A match made in heaven. I hope. I’d feel a whole lot better about things if Kentucky fans didn’t seem to be so thrilled to see Tubby leave.

The guy won a national title, of course. That alone is credentials enough, at least on the surface. Except... Tubby’s title came in his first year on the job, riding a roster assembled by Rick Pitino. Tubby never had to build Kentucky Basketball: it was locked and loaded when he stepped in.

If there is one phrase that does not describe Gopher Basketball, it’s “locked and loaded.” After the Dan Monson era of dragging the program out of the depths of probation, the soil is a bit bare right now. The current roster contains very little in the way of talent that could be useful on a team worthy of making noise in the Big Ten. Lawrence McKenzie is a nice player, if you like undersized shooting guards. Dan Coleman can keep on doing... whatever it is he does to get his 10-15 a night. There is some younger talent (Brandon Smith, Kevin Payton, et. al.) that could develop into something useful in a year or two. But the team needs some serious work, and Smith will need to prove that he’s capable of building his own program.

Tim Brewster, the new football coach, has taken the campus by storm. The young up-and-comer has the student body in a tizzy, with dreams of Rose Bowls dancing in our heads. Unfortunately, the University couldn’t go this route with the basketball job. They tried it once already, with Dan Monson. And we know where that left us: a mid-season firing and a 9-22 record (worst overall in the Big Ten). So instead, the Gophers opted to go with the “name” coach. And, despite the last 500 words, it was probably the right choice.

Tubby Smith is probably not a championship-caliber coach when left to his own devices. But the Name Factor cannot be overlooked, especially in a situation such as this. Gopher Basketball is doomed to running in third place on campus, if that. This is not a basketball school right now—the Barn was awfully quiet for most of this year. I can take as much blame for this as anyone else—I maybe made it to half the games this year. And in an extremely mediocre Big Ten, the Gophers took a pounding. Being able to throw the name “TUBBY SMITH” all over campus is the only way to generate any interest in the men’s program while it languishes in the shadow of hockey and football. And after all, the goal isn’t to win a national championship or anything. Right now, .500 would look pretty good. So while he’s no Flip, the man they call Tubby is at least a step in the right direction for a program that badly needs a shot in the arm.

I hope.

1 comment:

Cory said...


John... good post, but I think the cry for Tubby to leave was from a very loud minority. Just look at the recent poll in Lexington that gave him a 92% approval rating and 84% wanted him to stay on. He has won three of the last six SEC championships free and clear of Pitino. He was one brilliant game from Dwyane Wade of going to the Final Four with all his kids. He has never failed to finish a season at UK without making it at least to the first weekend of March Madness. Not to mention he took two non-hoops schools in Georgia and Tulsa to the Sweet Sixteen. I'm quite confident that a better resume could not have crossed Joel Maturi's desk... so he hired the best man available and that man is more than pretty good. I guess time will tell.