Who’s got next? Assistant coaches who might replace Tubby Smith.

If the Minnesota Golden Gophers are in the market for a new head coach,there will be no shortage of valuable candidates. Earlier this week we looked  at potential coaches with local ties. Just like there is an unfounded assumption that the next head coach of the Gophers has local ties, there is an assumption that the next coach is currently a head coach. We’ll look at those candidates later. For now, we’ll look at current assistant coaches from around the country who could one day coach the Gophers.


As a disclaimer, I do think the next Gopher coach, whether it is next season or a few seasons from now will come from the college head coaching ranks. However, the big caveat is that Norwood Teague, and more importantly Senior Associate Athletic Director Mike Ellis are best known for plucking unknown assistant coaches Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart to coach VCU.  Mike Ellis also runs Villa 7, a group that “brings together university athletic directors and the country’s elite assistant basketball coaches in an effort to prepare the next generation of college basketball leaders.” If there is a viable assistant out there who could lead the Gophers to success, Teague and Ellis will find them.

Vince Taylor
The current Gopher assistant coach has been linked to coaching searches at low and mid-major schools and definitely wants to be a head coach somewhere.

Why Taylor?
Continuity is Taylor’s best qualification. By hiring him, the Gophers would reduce the likelihood of players leaving the program, and he would still have ties to current recruits. Several of Villa 7′s self-proclaimed successes have involved teams promoting previously overlooked assistants. That could be Taylor.

Why not Taylor?
If Taylor wasn’t picked to coach inconsequential small schools, it probably means he isn’t ready to be a head coach anywhere.

The Verdict:
Taylor won’t be the next Gophers coach, but Tubby Smith’s eventual replacement should keep him on staff.

Dane Fife
The former Indiana Hoosier player and IPFW coach voluntarily resigned a few years ago to be one of Tom Izzo’s assistants.

Why Fife?
When Dane Fife was hired to coach the Mastodons (yes, really, the Mastodons) he was 25 and the youngest Division I coach in the country. He led IPFW in their first season of Division I basketball, and by the time he resigned they were 18-12. They haven’t won that many games in each of the last two seasons. Being around Tom Izzo can only help his coaching. Because the Spartans are recruiting Tyus Jones and Reid Travis, those two already know Fife. Because he is young, there is the potential that he could be the with the Gophers for a very long time. And a bonus for those desperate for a local connection, his father played for the Minnesota Twins organization.

Why not Fife?
Dane Fife, simply, might not want to coach the Gophers. He is the most logical replacement for Tom Izzo if the Michigan State coach ever decides to retire. That might not be for another 10 years, but Fife is young enough that he could wait 20 years and still have a long head coaching career.

The verdict:
If I was hiring the next Gopher head coach, I would make a strong run at Fife. He may be the coach-in-waiting at Michigan State, but a head coaching offer, especially at a Big Ten salary, might make Fife restless enough to leave the Spartans.

Jeff Capel
The former Duke guard and current assistant coach was the Oklahoma head coach before returning to Durham.

Why Capel?
Jeff Capel started his coaching career at VCU, where Mike Ellis was in the athletic department. He had some success at Oklahoma, especially in recruiting, convincing Blake Griffin to spend two years in Norman, Oklahoma of all places. Duke is recruiting Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn, along with Gopher target Josh Perkins, so he wouldn’t be starting from scratch.

Why not Capel?
Things went south pretty fast after Blake Griffin entered the NBA draft. They went 13-18, and one of his assistant coaches was involved in a recruiting scandal. Capel resigned, and eventually was cleared of any wrong doing.

The verdict:
Capel would be worth taking a look at, but given the Gopher program’s history with NCAA violations, they won’t look at Capel very long.

One thought on “Who’s got next? Assistant coaches who might replace Tubby Smith.”

  1. Wisconsin doing nicely with leading scorer and two of three top rebounders from MINNESOTA ! Maybe they wouldn’t fit in to Tubby’s plodding offense.

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