Smith takes a break from Ohio State prep to wrap burritos and sign a few bags

Coach Tubby Smith signed autographs Wednesday for fans at Chipotle.

by Zach Eisendrath

Tubby Smith is a fan of chicken burritos. University students are fans of Tubby Smith.

That combination led to the Minnesota men’s basketball coach assisting the staff at the Stadium Village Chipotle on Wednesday afternoon in front of a packed restaurant of patient customers.

The 56-year-old Smith took time away from preparing for Saturday night’s matchup with Ohio State to sign autographs and even attempt to make burritos from 1 to 2 p.m. yesterday.

Smith started his afternoon moving down the burrito line – heating tortillas, adding rice, beans, sour cream; all the necessities – before the staff paused him as he attempted the tricky task of wrapping a burrito.

At that point, Area Manager Greg Hill and staff decided Smith might be better suited for signing autographs on bags instead.

“They didn’t allow me to fold it like I wanted to. They fired me before I got to that point,” Smith said.

“The speed of it was amazing, how quick they can (make burritos). There is an art to it. I was signing those bags and the food was coming faster than I could sign.”

Sophomore Bo Arnold was the first person in line waiting for Smith, and the only to have his entire burrito personally made by the Gophers head coach.

Arnold said he was excited when he found out Smith’s appearance also included a buy-one-get-one-free burrito deal, but said he was more concerned with meeting the coach who has rejuvenated Minnesota men’s basketball.

“I would have come here anyway, even if I didn’t know about the (free) burritos, I just wanted to see Tubby,” he said.

Arnold said having Smith make his burrito was special, and added he was grateful the coach added plenty of sour cream to his chicken burrito.

“I didn’t even think he would be back there (working),” he said. “I think it will taste extra good knowing that Tubby made it.”

Hill said the idea to have Smith work at the restaurant came about after Chipotle started providing food for Smith’s basketball camps over the summer.

It is his hope that the relationship between the restaurant and the team can continue to grow.

“This is definitely an ongoing thing with us,” Hill said. “We’ll do it as long as they want to.”

That could be awhile, as Smith appears to be a fan of the restaurant after his brief shift.

“I’m a very simplistic guy. I’m just a Joe bag o’ doughnuts, but I’m also a Joe bag o’ Chipotle now,” Smith said.