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Tubby Smith says he still has ‘that fire in my belly’


Mike Miller

Tubby Smith got a new boss this week. So he wants everyone to know that despite his status as an elder statesman (he’s 60) and his tenure (this will be his sixth season in Minnesota) that he’s “fired up” about next season.

Provided a few things get done.

Smith was no doubt pleased to hear new athletic director Norwood Teague explicitly state the importance of fundraising to provide a basketball-specific practice facility. The Gophers are the lone Big Ten team without one. Also, Smith has two years remaining on his contract, but he broached the topic of an extension before last season. He makes $1.8 million a year.

If both topics are addressed, Smith would be happy to close out his career in Minnesota. That’d mean his name would get floated far less often as a potential replacement in other jobs.

“I certainly want to be wanted. I think every coach wants that,” Smith told the AP, adding: “One of the things that my wife and I decided awhile back when we made this move here that this was a move that we wanted to make it the last move in my career. I’m not getting any younger. But I still have that fire in my belly. I still have that drive to get things done.”

If those things are done for Smith, it’d also be fair to expect more success under him as well.

The Gophers have won at least 20 games in four of his five seasons, but his overall record (103-68) isn’t that impressive and his Big Ten record (38-52) is junk. He’s only made two NCAA tournaments in that span. Minnesota didn’t win a game in either appearance. Sure, Trevor Mbakwe got hurt, but that’s just one guy in one season.

If Minnesota wants to invest in new facilities and give Smith more time, that’s great. But it should see something more for its investment.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.