We’re in the middle of perhaps the most exciting time in recent Gopher hoops memory, and nothing gets the blood pumping like a good, ol’ fashioned coaching search. And while rumors will swirl, flights will be tracked, and TMZ will seem tame, I think it’s important to take a minute to revisit the highs and lows of the Tubby Smith era and why we’re in this coaching search to begin with.
The last six years were met with amazing peaks with wins over some of the best teams in the nation and some awful valleys that saw losses to some bad conference opponents, often in stunning fashion. This is what made Tubby’s reign so frustrating. The team would come together to defeat an Indiana team ranked #1 in the nation, while looking lost against a pretty pitiful Northwestern team. So, as we bid a final farewell to Tubby Smith, let’s revisit the five best wins and losses and get that blood pumping again.
March 14, 2008 vs. Indiana. 69-68
Way back when, in 2008, Tubby had come to town and brought heightened expectations for a troubled program. He immediately brought the team back from oblivion and posted a decent conference record (8-10) in his inaugural season. One problem, though: he couldn’t beat any ranked teams, going 0-7 against ranked teams during his inaugural year. It was defensible, since he was just getting started and was already showing the ability to turn the program around. Finally, in his first Big Ten tournament, Tubby and the Gophers defeated Indiana, #20 at the time, for the coach’s first victory over a ranked opponent.
But it wasn’t just any ordinary victory. This was the program’s version of “The Shot.” A full court heave to Blake Hoffarber who caught the ball, did a quick spin, and let it go just before the buzzer sounded for an incredible, game-ending basket.
Ironically, Tubby would later be ridiculed for his inability to draw up successful plays out of a timeout and perceived lack of emotion. Go figure.
Jan. 15, 2009 @ Wisconsin 78-74 in OT
Bitter hatred surrounds the Gophers and the Badgers. And if there was one game that is “circled” every year it’s when the two teams meet. Unable to get a victory of Minnesota’s arch rival in his first season, Tubby would lead the Gophers on the road in Madison for a thrilling overtime victory and a rare road win at Wisconsin. Indeed, this was Tubby’s first rivalry win and another spark for the fan base, who was quickly buying in to Tubby Time. Smith would complete the sweep later on in the season with a home victory over the Badgers.
Jan 12, 2012 @ Indiana, 77-74
Well into the Tubby era, but before we knew the Gophers as a team that was destined for annual late-season swoons, we found ourselves in the middle of the 2011-12 season. The season was falling well short of pre-season expectations with the loss of Trevor Mbakwe, and the Gophers faced long odds on the road in Bloomington. After an 0-4 start, it was starting to look like the only place for Minnesota was the conference basement. Instead, the team rallied to win a seemingly impossible road game against a top-ten team.
Feb. 26, 2013 vs. Indiana, 77-73
Ah, so recent and so amazing. One of the biggest victories in the history of Gophers basketball and easily the biggest one of Tubby’s tenure at the U. The Gophers were in the midst of another late season free fall and desperately needed a big victory to keep their slimming at-large chances alive. And for the first time since 1989 the Gophers knocked off the number-one team in the land. Spectacular.
March 22, 2013 vs. UCLA, 83-63
If only this victory had come earlier in Tubby’s tenure, he might not have been shown the door so quickly. Unfortunately it took him until his sixth season to win a first round tournament game, which ended up being too little, too late. It was perhaps the pinnacle of his tenure, as it doesn’t get much bigger than winning a game on the nation’s biggest stage. And, my, what a blowout it was.
Jan. 23, 2013 @ Northwestern, 55-48
Looking at this season in hindsight, it seems that this was the turning point, and the point where the Gophers went from a nationally relevant team to being exposed by a pretty bad Northwestern team. With Tubby’s best squad on the court, the team failed to score 50 points against the Wildcat 1-3-1 zone and prompted outrage from a fan base who began to realize that Tubby was inflexible and unable to adapt to a gimmick defense that had given him fits for years.
Feb. 17, 2013 @ Iowa, 72-51
It was this thorough pounding at the hands of a relatively mediocre Iowa Hawkeyes team that got me off of the Tubby train. It was during this game that the Gophers problems with a zone defense and the team’s inability to adapt undermined my confidence that Gophers could ever achieve a high level of success. What could they hope to achieve when the coach’s best squad could only must this type of performance? An absolutely brutal showing and one that may have changed the viewpoints for many in Tubby’s camp.
Feb. 22, 2012 vs. Michigan State, 66-61
It was this loss last year in the middle of yet another late-season free fall that basically defines the Gophers under Tubby Smith. They outplayed and outhustled the Spartans for 90 percent of the game, even taking an eight-point lead late in the game. However, the Gophers panicked with the lead, played not to lose and started turning the ball over. Before you knew it Michigan State was walking away with a game that Minnesota had well in control for nearly the entire game. Just sickening.
March 2, 2011 @ Northwestern, 68-57
Two years ago, from the blog:
The loss marked the team’s eighth in its last nine games, and provided Tubby Smith with the dubious honor of having his second four-game losing streak in less than a month and a half. The frustration of a failed season even boiled over between Smith and Blake Hoffarber when the two engaged in a bit of a shouting match late in the game during a timeout.
Nov. 27, 2011 vs. Dayton, 86-70
Now, this game isn’t necessarily a knock on Tubby, but it was one of the worst days in Smith’s tenure in that it marked the game where Trevor Mbakwe went down with a torn ACL. The Gophers would miss the crazy-athletic power forward during the season, finishing only 6-12 in the the conference and heading to the NIT.