The big news today is that Oregon and Mr. Moneybags Phil Knight have made a formal offer to Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, which (you know the drill) Smith vehemently denied. In an effort to keep Tubby in Minneapolis, the Minnesota president has gotten involved and said that they hope they can put together a contract extension that will result in Smith retiring from basketball at the school. Another source near the Duck program says that Pitt’s Jamie Dixon has been offered the job. We’re really not sure what Oregon is thinking here. Sure, they want a big name, but they need to be realistic about this. Oregon may have gobs of cash to throw at a prospective coach, but they’re not nearly as important as they must think they are. Just within the Pac-10, this is probably the fifth best basketball job (behind UCLA, Arizona, Cal and Washington), and if you’ve ever been to Eugene it cannot possibly be the easiest place in the world to recruit mostly african-american players to. Ernie Kent probably did as well as he possibly could do there. The play that Knight and friends should make is to scour the nation for the hottest mid-major coach in America and throw whoever that may be (Randy Bennett? Brad Stevens? Ben Jacobson?) a wad of cash and the keys to the new Matthew Knight arena. Give him four years and watch him work his tail off. You’ve probably got a better shot at long-term success with that strategy that you would ending up with someone like Tubby who has gotten comfortable with his career arc.
Moving on to other coaching news, there were two more interesting items today. First, former USC coach Tim Floyd has been hired at UTEP to replace Tony Barbee. Yes, this is the same guy who as head coach at USC was responsible for the OJ Mayo fiasco and other self-reported NCAA violations that ended up costing a promising Trojan team its season. It’s nice to see that UTEP brass thinks that Floyd will be cleared to coach when the NCAA sanctions come down next month, but mixed messages are coming out of El Paso about what the school expects to hear from the NCAA.
The other piece of news is that Boston College fired Al Skinner after thirteen seasons at the helm in Chestnut Hill. Citing “philosophical differences,” the BC athletic director said that the information was kept quiet last week as Skinner applied for the St. John’s job that went to Steve Lavin. Rumored candidates for the job include Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, Cornell’s Steve Donahue and Richmond’s Chris Mooney.
Seton Hall lost its third player to the NBA Draft today when guard Jeremy Hazell decided to test the waters. Hazell averaged 20.4 PPG this year, which was third-best in the Big East but he is currently projected as a late second-rounder on the current draft boards. One player who will not be heading to the NBA Draft this year is UCLA’s J’Mison Morgan who was dismissed from the program today. Morgan’s complete lack of production in two years in Westwood has been nothing short of confounding — the onetime top-50 recruit scored a grand total of 36 points in the 2009-10 season.
One other interesting rumor coming out of the McDonald’s All-American Game is that Kentucky is apparently telling recruits that all five of their NBA-possibles — John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson — are expected to leave for the NBA Draft. Is UK lying to these players in the hopes that they’ll lure them into the Wildcat fold, or is there any truth to this? Everyone expects Wall, Cousins and Patterson to be gone, but Bledsoe and Orton as well?