Tubby Blasts Struggling Golden Gophers

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tubby Smith has seen enough.

Mired in the first four-game losing streak of his four-year tenure as coach at Minnesota, Smith lashed out at his struggling team after a 71-62 home loss to Illinois on Thursday night.

Few were spared in the postgame rant that criticized Blake Hoffarber, Rodney Williams, Colton Iverson, Chip Armelin individually and the overall mentality of his entire team.

“We’ve got to get those folks believing and trusting in what we’re doing and doing it the right way,” Smith said. “Obviously what happens is people start questioning coach’s philosophy. ‘Coach sucks. Coach don’t know what he’s doing.’

“After 37 years, everybody’s going to question when you’re losing. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it’s a four-game losing streak or a one-game losing streak. I don’t mind taking it. But I’m not going to take it when guys aren’t doing it the way we say to do it. And that’s what we’re going to get back to, basic fundamentals.

“And I don’t think it’s that they’re not doing what we want to them to do. It’s that physically they’re incapable of doing some of the things that we’re asking them to do. I’ve got to figure that out.”

It was the most frontal and critical assessment of his team since he left Kentucky and took the job. Perhaps it was Smith’s way of trying to get his players’ attention before it’s too late.

The Golden Gophers (16-8, 5-7 Big Ten) are just 1-4 since starting point guard Al Nolen went down with a broken foot. Losses on the road to Purdue and Indiana and at home to Ohio State and Illinois have exposed their weaknesses and done serious damage to their NCAA tournament resume.

Injuries to Nolen and Mo Walker and the departure of Devoe Joseph over differences with Smith have gutted the team. Their bench was outscored 23-2 by the Illini’s reserves on Thursday night and Hoffarber, the team’s leading scorer and senior leader, is showing signs of wearing down after moving from shooting guard to point guard for Nolen.

Smith ripped Hoffarber’s shot selection after the game, saying “it cost us.” He also said “we’re not getting much out of Rodney” and, “we’ve got to get more out of Colton.”

Williams, the super-athletic swingman, has scored in double figures just once in the last 10 games and Iverson has been scoreless for two straight.

Smith was asked if this was a similar situation to last year’s team, which lost Nolen to academic suspension in the second half of the season yet still rebounded to make the NCAA tournament.

“We don’t have the same kids,” Smith said. “We had some pretty mature kids last year. Lawrence Westbrook, Damian Johnson, Paul Carter, Devron Bostick. Seniors that were men. Right now we’ve got boys. That’s a big difference. We’ve got (freshmen) Chip Armelin, Maverick Ahanmisi, Austin Hollins. It’s a big difference.”

Hoffarber, Hollins and Williams combined for 12 of the team’s 16 turnovers and couldn’t respond to the Illini’s in-your-face perimeter defense. The Gophers tied the game at 51 with 7:30 to play, but Illinois outscored the worn-down Gophers 20-9 the rest of the way.

Center Ralph Sampson III said after the game that the Illini “were just more hungry for the win than we were.”

Smith, who won a national title at Kentucky and was credited with building solid programs at Georgia and Tulsa, doesn’t seem to have the answers this time around.

“I don’t have anything I can do to wave a magic wand,” Smith said. “It’s called hard work.”

The Gophers have road games at Iowa on Sunday and Penn State on Thursday looming. More performances like the one they gave against Illinois could doom them.

“We’re just hurting ourselves,” star forward Trevor Mbakwe said. “The last couple games we’re just beating ourselves with the lapses we’ve had.

“The spirits are still high,” he said. “I still believe we’re going to make the tournament and this is just a little bump in the road right now.”

Earlier this week, Smith called out Mbakwe for recent subpar performances. The message hit home and Mbakwe had 17 points and 16 rebounds against Illinois.

After calling out the rest of the team, maybe Smith is hoping it will have the same effect.

“We’re all still hungry,” Mbakwe said. “We all still believe in each other, believe in the team, believe in the system. We’ve just got to come out with some wins.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • msche

    Tubby needs to be the first one to look in the mirror! He had good momentum and good flow at the beginning of last nights game. Then he pulls everyone but Blake out and puts in a bunch of freshman. How is the team supposed to build any rhythm when he pulls them all out? In every game, whenever the starters get any kind of a lead, Tubby pulls them all out, puts the back-ups in, they get behind and then the starters have to go back in and make up the deficit. If I was a starting player, I wouldn’t put much effort out either. Put effort out, get a lead, sit down, go back in when behind.,,,What does that tell the players and why would you coach llike that? Could it be the big past examples of large payouts the other coaches (Mason, Munson, Brewster) have received when they were fired after putting losing products on the court/field? The continued legacy of Joel Maturi….

    • gtV

      It’s easy to be an ersatz sports guru in Minnesota. Coach Smith must see something in the Gopher’s that we don’t. When was the last time we criticized the players for not giving 100% effort and pulling together to achieve a victory in the face of adversity.

      Blame the AD, the athletic department, and the coaches but the real problem is not having a winning sports ethic and winning traditions. Minnesota is getting a reputation for being a milquetoast sports power; a lot of bluster but no substance. Gopher athletics especially the major sports need not only total fan support but players who want to play their best talents for Minnesota. Must we forget that the U of Minnesota is an academic institution, first, not a training crib for the pros!

      In the true spirit and tradition of legendary coaches, Coach Smith is doing his job when he says his players need to look at themselves and their efforts. I am not going to second guess him or his tactics. If his players aspire to be in the pro ranks then they better shape up as a team and show us who they truly are. No one should ever think that the road to success and victory is easy.

  • John Sherman

    maybe its the talent which has been recruited and the aura of Minn atheltlics which can best be defined as losing and which is demonstarated from the top to the bottom of the U and the atheltic dept its atheletes and the student body which many of the times are no shows and sit on their hands.

  • JDA

    “I wouldn’t put much effort out either” You’d fit right in with this bunch of under achievers. A man plays his best all the time. Not just when he feels like it.

  • LOL

    JS….HS drop ot from the looks of that post.

  • Darren

    The University Pays the coach correct? Who pays the University? Enough said.

  • Paul

    You lose your top two point guards and you are gonna have a tough time.
    Everyone can second guess substitutions, line ups, and strategy…….but Tubby is a solid coach, and would out coach most of us.

    Darren, should we fire the coach?? There is someone better that we could get to represent the University??

  • Jack

    Msche You must not have ever played basketball. You pull off starters to give them a rest. What are you going to do run them into the ground. Tubby is a proven coach and believe me he will get it done. Iverson cannot make a basket under the net for Gods sake and Sampson is just to dam timid. Give him more time he will get it done.

  • Norge

    Smith got famous for making one National Championship run his first year with a team someone else built and recruited and coached for 10yrs with Smith as an assistant. Smith hasn’t recuited jack for national talent, hasn’t coached jack in a weak sister league, and can’t lead for jack on a weak sister school. Just like our football and program, the last 20 years have been one big skid-mark in drawers of Minnesota history, and as long as we keep hiring Athletic Directors who don’t know jack, we’ll keep getting ‘names’ and embellished resumes and losing programs. But this is to be expected where liberalism is taught as a religion, and it all about ‘concept’ and ‘feelings’. When you want results get a hard-a$$ed businessman in there instead of a bunch Dr. Feel-goods. Need more proof..look at the success of individual sports like swimming and wrestling where the individual is accountable to himself/herself for their success. Team sports fail because of poor leadership….. period, and that starts all the way at the top and trickles down to the selection of head coaches. Nothing is going to change until there is a complete purge from the head coaches on UP to the president and board at the U. Reason??? No real world experience…in other words they don’t know jack…either.

  • Tailgunner

    Stop Recruiting Flunkies and wanna-be gang members Tubby or don’t let the door hit you when you are F-I-R-E-D…………………….

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live