Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Firing Tubby & Keeping In-State Talent

With the Gophers most recent loss at home to Illinois, it's clear that Tubby Smith needs to be fired at season's end. Sure, Smith has been considerably better than his predecessor, Dan Monson, but that's not saying much. The Gophers have had some of the strangest luck with their recruits transferring for random reasons ever since Tubby took over in 2008.

A big reason many Gopher fans don't want to see Tubby fired yet is because he's put in a lot of work trying to recruit in-state talent Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn, and those people feel that firing Tubby will put the Gophers behind the 8 ball as far as recruiting the two 5 star studs. If the Gophers could somehow manage to lock up both players, a starting backcourt comprised of two freshman phenoms would give them a great chance to win a Big 10 title.

However, Tubby doesn't have any past history to suggest he's the right man to keep the in state talent here. Tubby took over the Gophers a little before the 2008 recruits committed; I don't fault Tubby for failing to keep the players listed in 2008 because he really only got a few weeks to recruit them. However, we'll start in 2008 and go though 2012 and take a look at the in-state talent Tubby has let leave.

2008:

Top Minnesota prospects:

Jordan Taylor - Wisconsin
Jared Berggren - Wisconsin
Anthony Tucker - Iowa

Who Minnesota signed:

Ralph Sampson

Colton Iverson
Devoe Joseph
Paul Carter
Devron Bostick

Sampson never quite lived up to his potential, and Colton Iverson decided to transfer for his senior season, which just happens to be his best season by far. Iverson is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds in just over 28 minutes a game and has helped lead Colorado State to a 19-4 record. He would be a huge upgrade over Elliot Elliason this season; it's a shame Tubby and company couldn't keep him.

Joseph was kind of a head case and transferred to Oregon because he wanted to be in a faster paced offense, one that "allowed him to shoot more" despite the fact he was leading the Gophers in shot attempts per game. Paul Carter was a decent player before a family illness forced him to transfer closer to home, and Devron Bostick was simply terrible. Hindsight being 20/20 it would've been nice to land Iverson, Sampson, Berggren and Taylor for sure, with an argument to be made for Tucker or Paul Carter or Joseph.
Tucker was very good at Iowa in stretches before he got into trouble with the law enforcement several times for underage drinking, and it's at least possible he would've stayed out of trouble easier playing in Minnesota. Of course, with Tubby's history of past problem players, that seems unlikely.


2009:

Top Minnesota prospects:

Rodney Williams - Minnesota
Royce White - Minnesota, Iowa State
Trent Lockett - ASU, Marquette
Sam Dower - Gonzaga
Mike Broghammer - Notre Dame
Mike Bruesewitz - Wisconsin
Ethan Wragge - Creighton
Nate Wolters - South Dakota St

Who Minnesota signed:

Rodney Williams

Royce White
Trevor Mbakwe (JUCO)
Justin Cobbs

The 2009 class in Minnesota was very deep, and very solid. Mbakwe was undoubtedly a better signing at the time than anyone other than Williams or White, and Cobbs is becoming a solid point guard although he's already transferred out.

Tubby deserves some credit for the recruiting class itself, as all four players would've been key contributors for at least a season or two had they all stayed together. Rodney Williams remains one of the most underrated players in Gophers history, and he's been a very good and versatile player. Mbakwe's had his share of off the court issues and injuries, but he's been very good as well when he's been on the court.

Royce White was involved in a laptop theft situation at the U and eventually transferred to Iowa State, where he starred for one season before heading to the NBA. He was considered a top 10 talent but he fell to 16th overall because he's a head case, as evidenced by the fact he's finally reporting to the Rockets this week after months of hammering out mental health issues and treatments.

The biggest problem I have with Tubby's 2009 class is the same problem I have with him every other year: he signs a kid from California or another far away place, and neglects kids in his own backyard here in Minnesota. After one season, the kid is home sick and decides to transfer closer to home, mainly because the offense at the U is boring or because Tubby chooses to play 10 or 11 players every game and it cuts into the better players minutes.

By signing Cobbs over Wolters, Tubby has hurt the Gophers chances this season, 2013, of contending. If the team was to replace Maverick Ahanmisi with Nate Wolters, arguably the best scoring point guard in college basketball, I feel safe saying the team wouldn't have as many losses as it does. They'd likely be a top 10 team and quite possibly top 5.

2010:

Top Minnesota prospects:

Marshall Bjorklund - NDSU
Kevin Noreen - West Virginia

Who Minnesota signed:

Elliott Eliason
Mo Walker
Austin Hollins
Oto Osenieks

2010 was a down year for both Minnesota recruits and the Gophers recruiting class. Eliason hasn't been terrible, but Bjorklund has been far more efficient for North Dakota State. Walker and Osenieks continue to get playing time this season, but neither looks like even an average regular. Osenieks has good shooting form but never seems to make anything, and Mo Walker's skill set is lacking pretty much everything.

Austin Hollins has been a great signing, as he's developed into a very good player. He's the only player on the Gophers who seems to bring it every single night, and his defense makes him the Gophers best NBA prospect, even if mock drafts and such don't seem to agree yet. His game will translate to the next level a lot better than any other current Gophers, that's for sure.

Noreen's been decent for West Virginia, certainly better than Osenieks and Walker, which makes it a shame that Tubby went out of state for four players and only found one that can contribute on a consistent basis.


2011:

Top Minnesota prospects:

Joe Coleman - Minnesota
Ross Travis - Penn State

Who Minnesota signed:

Andre Hollins
Joe Coleman
Julian Welch

Another down year for Minnesota high school players, Tubby did well to sign Coleman, who to this point has been a better player than Ross Travis. Tubby seemed intent on bringing in multiple point guards, so picking Welch over Travis isn't a huge deal, but Welch hasn't been anything special. The Gophers should probably stop targeting JUCO point guards, it just doesn't seem to work out much for them.

Andre Hollins has obviously been a great signing, but he's a streaky player and he's also still learning how to be a point guard after playing almost exclusively as a shooting guard in high school. When Hollins is on, him and Austin are a great duo that complement each other almost perfectly. When he's off, the Gophers almost always lose, because Hollins backups at point guard are Julian Welch and Ahanmisi.

2012: 

Top Minnesota prospects:

Siyani Chambers - Harvard


Who Minnesota signed:

Wally Ellenson
Charles Buggs

Siyani Chambers went to Harvard, and he's playing 38 minutes a game this season, averaging 13.5 points and 6 assists a game as a freshman. Chambers may not have even been attainable, because a lot of kids that can get in to Harvard will choose it regardless, but the Gophers by all accounts didn't even recruit him hard. He couldn't possibly be any worse than Ahanimisi or Welch, and as a freshman he'd have a lot more room to grow than either of those two. Trent Lockett also transferred from ASU, so the Gophers could have had him for one season instead of Ellenson or Buggs.

Ellenson and Buggs have contributed very little or nothing at this point, so it's possible both could become good players and make this class a good one. That's a few years away. But I think the smart thing to do would've been to offer Lockett one of the two scholarships considering the team was built to contend this season.

However, what's clear is that Tubby Smith doesn't seem to care about keeping the in-state talent around. He wants specific types of players to fit his system, which is a huge mistake for a college coach. When your roster is constantly changing, as it does in college sports, coaches need to be able to adjust their schemes to their players strengths from time to time. Tubby Smith has shown no ability to do that in his time as the Gophers coach.

If the team were simply to fire Tubby after what is likely to be at best a first round tournament loss again, they could move quickly to hire a big enough name (Shaka Smart?) that they won't really lose out on whatever slim chances they had of keeping Jones and Vaughn. Of course, if the plan is to hire Flip Saunders, then you might as well just keep Tubby in place, because Flip has struggled as a coach on every team that didn't have Kevin Garnett on it.

If the Gophers really want to show Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn that they should help change the culture of Gophers sports, the University needs to begin by making changes at the top. Tubby's time is over.