Minnesota fired coach Tubby Smith Monday. Who will be his replacement? (Ray Carlin/Icon SMI)
March's madness is never limited to the court, and this year's coaching carousel has gotten off to a rousing start. With Monday's report that Minnesota has fired Tubby Smith, it appears that at least three positions of varying levels of desirable -- UCLA, USC and the Gophers' gig -- are now open. Let the speculation (and the conflagration) begin!
It's appropriate that two of the three major openings right now are in Los Angeles, as that city has been the longstanding device in the NFL's extortion shell game by which different franchises leverage better deals with their current cities. The same thing is undoubtedly already happening here. When solid programs fire successful coaches -- and despite obvious flaws in both, Tubby Smith and (especially) Ben Howland were successful coaches -- the pressure moves squarely onto the athletic directors and schools. They need to make splashy, popular hires in a market where there aren't very many of those to go around, and their job openings become leverage devices for early targets.
Noted philosopher (and halfway decent pugilist) Mike Tyson once said "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth," and the same holds true for coaching searches. Most schools have delusional opinions of themselves and their upside, and the initial wish list for this season's carousel will look something like Buzzshaka Stevensfield. The problem: Three of those guys already make seven figs and the other's likely worth much more than that, and their current employers -- as any good company will do to try to keep elite talent -- have shown they will come up with more money as other offers (or the illusion of them) materialize.
So once the initial plan fails, then the AD (or the search firm he has to lamely pay to help him generate the same names you or I could come up with, under the veil of plausible deniability) earns his check. The school's already paying one (or more) coaches who don't work for them, and the killshot options are off the table. College hoops history is littered with secondary choices who became primary win producers, but it's a dangerous game. Per Chisholm's Law, just when you think things can't get any worse, they often do.