Minnesota fired Tubby Smith despite a rare NCAA Tournament win. Who's next?
Minnesota raised eyebrows with the firing of Tubby Smith on March 25. The question being, why would Minnesota fire a national title coach who had more fortune than most in program history.
The Gophers have a limited track record of basketball success -- or at least success that wasn't followed by NCAA sanctions -- and they fired a coach who won their first Tournament game since 1997. But Smith never had a winning conference record at Minnesota and had a handful of high-profile transfers under his watch (Colton Iverson and Royce White, for starters).
Minnesota demanded more than what Smith delivered. Still, the Gophers remain a lower-tier job in the Big Ten. Minnesota is in need of a facility upgrade and is lacking in recent tradition. The next coach will be expected to deliver under these circumstances.
POTENTIAL CANDIDATES FOR MINNESOTA
Andy Enfield, Florida Gulf Coast
A jump from the Atlantic Sun to a major conference job would be quite a leap, but Enfield is an unusual circumstance as the first coach to guide a No. 15 seed and an A-Sun team to the Sweet 16. Beyond the NCAA Tournament, Enfield proved himself as a program-builder by finishing second in the conference in the league's second season as a full Division I member. This would be a press conference-winning move, but an interesting risk.
Anthony Grant, Alabama
Minnesota’s athletic director, Norwood Teague, worked with Anthony Grant at VCU, so he’ll be in the rumor mill. Grant made two Tourney appearances at VCU, including a win over Duke in 2007. At Alabama, he’s gone 33-17 in conference in the last three years, but that’s translated to only one NCAA appearance.
Chris Mack, Xavier
The last five Xavier coaches have left for major conference jobs, so that’s reason for speculation around Mack. Xavier missed the Tournament in 2013 but reached the Sweet 16 in 2012. Mack is a Cincinnati native who has watched his predecessors go to Arizona, Ohio State and Wake Forest. He has good reason to be choosy.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
After 15 seasons at Winthrop and Wichita State, maybe it’s surprising Marshall hasn’t moved to one of the major conferences yet. After three consecutive seasons of 27 or more wins, back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances at Wichita State and a Sweet 16 berth, now may be the time to jump.
Steve Prohm, Murray State
The 2011-12 season was a miracle one for Prohm, who won 31 games in his first season as a head coach. After personnel losses, Murray State went 21-10 in 2012-13. The Racers still went 10-6 and won the OVC West in a competitive low-major league. He’s a Southeastern coach, but at 38, he’s at the younger end of the spectrum.
Flip Saunders, former NBA coach
Saunders has been a coach with the Timberwolves, Pistons and Wizards in the NBA. He’s an accomplished alum who’s not coaching now. That makes him an interesting candidate.
Shaka Smart, VCU
A fantasy candidate for Minnesota, for sure. He’s listed only because Minnesota’s athletic director hired Smart at VCU. Smart already turned down a better job in the same conference, and Smart could court dozens of jobs better than Minnesota. That is, assuming he wants to leave VCU in the first place.
Buzz Williams, Marquette
After reaching the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons, Williams will be a hot commodity in the carousel. The Golden Eagles have been among the best teams in the Big East despite losing Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, and Williams has proven he can unearth talent on the recruiting trail. He turned down opportunities last season to stay with the program that rolled the dice on him five years ago.