MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Fired Minnesota basketball coach Tubby Smith could have a job before the Golden Gophers fill his vacancy.
Smith is in talks with Texas Tech to become the next head coach of the Red Raiders, two people with knowledge of the conversation told The Associated Press on Saturday night. The people requested anonymity because the talks are ongoing.
Texas Tech has been in the market for a permanent head coach since last September, when Billy Gillispie resigned citing health concerns. He left under a cloud of allegations of player mistreatment during his one season at the helm. Interim coach Chris Walker went 11-20 this season and just 3-15 in Big 12 play.
Smith, who also could draw some interest from New Mexico after Steve Alford abruptly left for UCLA this week, was fired Monday after six seasons at Minnesota. He led the Golden Gophers to three NCAA tournaments and won at least 20 games five times. This season he helped the Gophers capture their first tourney victory since 1997 when they beat sixth-seeded UCLA in the second round.
Smith was credited with running a clean program at Minnesota, a big priority for a school that had been buried by an academic fraud scandal that wiped a Final Four appearance in 1997 off the record books. He also helped the team return to respectability on the court, something his predecessor Dan Monson was unable to do.
Smith, who won a national championship at Kentucky and also built strong programs at Tulsa and Georgia, never got the new practice facility he was long promised, and there was a feeling the program had grown stagnant under recently. He never finished higher than sixth in the Big Ten, and fans had grown impatient after expecting big things from him when he left the Wildcats to take over at Minnesota.
So athletic director Norwood Teague decided to make a change, and the process of finding a replacement for Smith has been a little messy this week.
Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and VCU’s Shaka Smart have parlayed expressed interest from Minnesota into long-term deals to remain at their schools and loyal alum and former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders turned down an offer to coach the team on Saturday, a development first reported by KFXN radio in Minneapolis.
Teague has remained quiet during the search. Other candidates could include Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Florida Gulf Coast’s Andy Enfield.
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