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Updated: December 4th, 2013 8:02am
P.J.R.: Sometimes, an AD is better off lucky than looking good

P.J.R.: Sometimes, an AD is better off lucky than looking good

by Patrick Reusse
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Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi had fired Tim Brewster on the night of Oct. 16, 2010, after a loss to Purdue put his football team at 1-6. As the season played out with interim coach Jeff Horton (2-3), Maturi worked with Parker Executive Search to come up with a list of candidates.

"We're out to hire a [football version of] Tubby Smith,'' Maturi said of the search.

The regular season ended on Nov. 27. A week later, the Gophers were close to a deal with Connecticut's Randy Edsall to become the next coach.

On the night of Dec. 4, UConn defeated South Florida 19-16 to gain the Big East berth in a BCS bowl game. Some time that day - either before the game or after - Edsall's representatives informed the Gophers that he wasn't taking the job.

Maturi had been in contact with Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois. He called Kill, offered the job and by the night of Dec. 5, the word was out that Kill would be the Minnesota coach.

Norwood Teague, Maturi's replacement, fired the real Tubby Smith on March 26, 2013, one day after the Gophers had lost to Florida in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Teague and Mike Ellis, his assistant AD for basketball, were proud of their coaching connections through the Vista 7 seminars established when they were at Virginia Commonwealth.

"People with knowledge of the situation'' - that's what we say, right? - have stated that Teague and Ellis made up their minds on Tubby during what had become an annual February collapse in the Big Ten and were sending out feelers on a replacement for weeks.

As soon as Smith was fired, Teague was making contact in earnest. There were several rejections and the job was offered to Andy Enfield on the weekend of March 30-31.

Enfield had become a target for major conference teams after taking unheralded Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet Sixteen. The run ended with a loss to Florida on Friday night, and very soon, Enfield was choosing between Southern Cal and the Gophers.

By the end of the weekend, Enfield had decided on Southern Cal. By Monday, Florida and Billy Donovan were out of the tournament after losing to Michigan in a regional final.

An extremely reliable reporter has offered this account: Teague called his friend Donovan, told him Enfield was out and said, "Who you got for me, Billy?''

The response was something along these lines: "You could try Richard Pitino. He's only been at Florida International for a year, but he's a bright young coach.''

Teague asked for Pitino's number, called and arranged a meeting in a neutral location in Florida. By Thursday, April 4, they had a deal, and the 30-year-old Pitino was being introduced as Tubby's replacement.

Minnesota had put the job out there for San Diego State's Brady Hoke, but he was waiting to see what happened at Michigan, where he had been a well-regarded assistant. What happened was Rich Rodriguez was fired after a bowl game humiliation and Hoke was hired.

There were Gopher alums pushing for Marc Trestman, then the coach of the Montreal Alouettes, but he had tried for the job previously and had decided to make his stand in pro football. He's now a rookie NFL coach with the Chicago Bears.

After Edsall said no, it came down to Kill and Wisconsin assistant Paul Chryst (now at Pittsburgh). Maturi went with Kill over Chryst, a close friend from Maturi's days in Madison.

Hoke? Not impressed - and neither are the Michigan fans after this mediocre third season in Ann Arbor. Edsall? He went to Maryland one day after UConn's BCS bowl loss to Oklahoma. He's 13-23 overall and 6-18 in the ACC.

Chryst? He's had back-to-back 6-6 regular seasons with Pitt, with a gold star for upsetting Notre Dame last month. Trestman? No matter his excuses, he should have tried to get Robbie Gould a few yards closer before that missed field goal Sunday in the Metrodome.

Everything considered, and with what we've seen from Kill and his staff in this third season, Maturi lucked out in hiring his second football coach for Minnesota.

In the early spring of 2013, there's reason to suspect that Teague was so anxious to fire Tubby because he felt there was a chance to get a yes from VCU's Shaka Smart. And if not a yes from him, from Alabama's Anthony Grant, the coach he had hired off Donovan's Florida staff to be VCU's coach in 2006.

No and no. Once he got those rejections, Teague took a run at Fred Hoiberg, earning "The Mayor'' a lucrative contract extension at Iowa State. He offered the job to Flip Saunders, but the pull of his alma mater wasn't as strong as the hint from Glen Taylor that there soon could be a big job for Flip back with the Timberwolves.

We know how that worked out for Saunders.

And then Enfield chose Southern Cal, and Norwood was asking, "Who do you got for me, Billy?'', and it's way early, but so far the Williams Arena faithful couldn't be happier with Rich Pitino, the boy coach Billy had for him.

Everything considered, it appears Teague lucked out with his first important hire for Minnesota.


Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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