Tubby Smith, the fiery coach that won a national championship at Kentucky, received the appreciation of his efforts confirmation he desired from the Minnesota Gophers: an eight-year contract extension worth about $1.8 million a season.
Smith, who rebuilt Georgia’s program before going to Kentucky and winning the national title in his first season, had been seeking an extension for about 18 months. His Gopher teams have not one an NCAA Tournament game in his five years. They won 23 games last year but only made it to the NIT (lost in the championship game).
“I believe that we can get the job done here,” Smith said in a statement. “The commitment from the university is there to continue to grow the program, and I am looking forward to being a part of that.”
The most significant part of that commitment is the construction of a practice facility to bring the Gophers up to speed with the rest of the Big Ten and around the country. Smith’s agent, Ricky Lefft, said no specific timetable was spelled out but that a “mutual agreement” has been forged between the university and the coach that the new building is on the horizon.
“We needed to make sure there was a commitment to make that investment at the university,” Lefft said to the Associated Press. “It’s been accepted by the institution, and certainly by Coach, that this is necessary to advance the program.”
New athletic director Norwood Teague said he looks forward to working with Smith “to help lift Gopher basketball to even greater heights.”
Smith took over a probation-ravaged program still reeling from the academic fraud scandal revealed in 1999, but a pair of one-and-done appearances in the NCAA tournament and a 38-52 record in Big Ten play has fallen short of the hopes he brought from Kentucky, where he won a national championship in 1998 and never finished worse than the second round. He is 103-68 with the Gophers.
“Coach has made it clear it’s his desire to be at Minnesota and turn Minnesota into a powerhouse,” Lefft said. “He’s excited about getting it done.”