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Updated: March 15th, 2011 8:50pm
Wolfson: Arkansas? N.C. State? No, only Terps could take Tubby Smith

Wolfson: Arkansas? N.C. State? No, only Terps could take Tubby Smith

by Doogie
1500ESPN.com

My co-host on 1500 ESPN's "TwinsWrap", KSTP-TV's Joe Schmit, said it best: about the only job Gophers coach Tubby Smith isn't in the mix for is intern for Charlie Sheen.

But according to someone who spoke with Smith on Tuesday afternoon, there's a "99 percent" chance that he isn't going anywhere. This source, along with others, say the only job they can see Smith leaving for in the next couple years is Maryland.

That hasn't stopped some prominent media outlets from speculating on Smith's immediate future. In the past 48 hours, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had him on his way to Arkansas and CBS College Sports insider Jon Rothstein tweeted to book it: Smith will be the hire for North Carolina State.

I suppose it's only a matter of time before Smith's name comes up for the Georgia Tech, Utah, Texas Tech and Northern Illinois jobs, too.

It's what happens when a very good coach -- although he's had more downs than ups in the last six years -- has a not-so-desirable job.

The "U" is a program that has never made three consecutive NCAA tournaments, plays in an old building, lacks a practice facility -- one of only two schools in the conference without one or even plans for one -- and is the punchline to an old joke. (What can't you spell NIT without? Minnesota.)

Smith has tried to stop the rumors. He recently told the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman, "I'm not going anywhere. ... I'm going to finish my career here." (Did Sid hear him right?)

But Smith has yet to sign an extension that's been available for months, and he doesn't currently have a buyout in his contract.

So, why not attempt to leverage "U" athletic director Joel Maturi into offering more money or even agreeing to make Saul -- Smith's son and assistant coach -- the coach in-waiting?

There's no way Maturi would be foolish enough to agree to the latter, but the former is a possibility. Smith's representatives are good.

Not bad, considering Smith's 32-40 Big Ten regular season record -- including 6-0 against lowly Iowa -- and his disappointing NCAA tournament appearances over the last six seasons, including just two wins.

Smith also has yet to do what former Gophers coach Dan Monson could: finish a conference season in the top four.

It's not a stretch to suggest that Smith not having at least one NCAA tournament win by the end of his fourth year is a disappointment.

Yet the program is in better shape than when he took it over, and to think that the "U" could do better is asinine -- Flip Saunders hasn't recruited since the mid-1980s, and hiring a mid-major coach fails as often as it works.

Via Twitter, I've been asked: why wouldn't Smith leave?

Easy. He'll have a less difficult time winning here in the next three or four years compared to Arkansas, North Carolina State or Georgia Tech. And he can attempt to do so with lower expectations.

Smith is far from the only coach who constantly has his name pop up for vacancies. Arizona State's Herb Sendek, who is far less accomplished, has seemingly been on the move for the last few years. And Michigan State's Tom Izzo has been rumored to be the next coach of about 10 NBA teams.

Maybe eventually that Maryland job will open up and maybe Smith will get his dream offer. Until then, expect him to stay a Gopher.

Whether he turns into a winning Gopher remains to be seen.

Darren "Doogie" Wolfson is the jack-of-all-trades sports guy for 5 Eyewitness News and a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Darren | @darrenwolfson
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