Friday, March 23, 2007

We're taking it up a notch

Just when you didn't think it could get any crazier after Steve Alford was indeed leaving Iowa for New Mexico, it did. Tubby Smith is leaving the Kentucky Wildcats, where he has won a national championship and coached the past 10 seasons, for that basketball juggernaut, Minnesota.

While the pressure on Tubby Smith continued to rise over the past three semi-disappointing seasons, Florida won a national championship, Tennessee returned to prominence, and Vanderbilt started playing basketball again. During this period, it had appeared that Tubby had grown tired of the pressure packed situation, as one could begin to wonder while watching him on the sidelines, whether Tubby had a pulse. I'm not sure if this counts as a retirement from basketball, or whether he could get more naps while coaching in the Big Ten, but Tubby Smith will take over a Minnesota program that is absolutely delighted to get him. You can't particularly blame him though, the pressure had overwhelmed him at Kentucky, and for $1.8 million dollars a year at a program that will be delighted with an NCAA birth every year without expectations rising for at least 10 years, I'd go too.

The interesting part of this story will be the off-season coaching carousel that will ensue. With Iowa, Michigan, and Kentucky all searching for head coaches, there should be a long list of names moving locales. Kentucky is at the top of that list, with its tradition and fan base, it is probably one of the top 10 coaching jobs in the country. Whatever schools they go visit, the coach there will at least have to listen. Among early mentions for the position, are Billy Donovan (Florida), Tom Crean (Marquette), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), John Calipari (Memphis), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Rick Barnes (Texas), Billy Gillespie (Texas A&M), and Jay Wright (Villanova). While Donovan is extremely unlikely, any other candidate on that list would at least have to listen. Wherever they do get their head coach from, it should set off a chain reaction leading to several coaches switching programs.

So many decisions and variables factor into these decisions, such as timing, money, the program, the coaches current program, their relationship with that program. You never know which coach would surprisingly turn down an offer and another coach surprisingly accept an offer. Needless to say it's frightening to see Barnes' name on that list, and while I like to think he wouldn't leave, he's from North Carolina and Kentucky is a basketball first, historic program. Let's just hope that Kevin Durant stays, and the point is moot.

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