Jury awards Jimmy Williams $1.2 million in Smith trial

Jimmy Williams, a former Oklahoma State assistant coach who said Gophers coach Tubby Smith promised him a job in 2007, won $1.247 million in Hennepin County Court Wednesday.

by John Hageman

A Hennepin County jury awarded Jimmy Williams, a former Oklahoma State assistant coach who claimed Minnesota menâÄôs basketball head coach Tubby Smith promised him a job in 2007, $1.247 million in lost income, both past and future, last week. The decision came last Wednesday morning after an eight-day trial which featured occasionally tense testimony from Williams, Smith and athletic director Joel Maturi. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, former Gophers basketball star Kevin McHale and former Gophers coach Jim Dutcher served as character witnesses for Williams. Williams testified that, when Smith was filling his coaching staff in 2007, Smith offered Williams an assistant coaching job with a salary and benefits package of $200,000 per year. Williams quit his job at Oklahoma State and put his house up for sale. He was suing for $1.7 million in lost income. However, after Maturi brought to light WilliamsâÄô recruiting violations as an assistant with the Gophers in the 1970s and 1980s, Smith decided not to hire him, and testified he never finalized the deal. Williams was an assistant coach with the Gophers from 1971-86 and, according to court documents, Smith knew he could help him recruit in the Midwest after coaching in the South for most of his career. Williams faxed his resume to Smith on April 2, 2007, and after a discussion about Williams coming to Minnesota that evening, Smith indicated that he could offer a $175,000 salary plus $25,000 for running SmithâÄôs basketball camp, according to deposition transcripts. Ninety minutes after Smith allegedly offered Williams a job, Williams called then-head coach Sean Sutton and resigned as assistant coach for Oklahoma State, Williams testified. The next morning, Smith told Williams that Maturi would have to approve the hiring but didnâÄôt anticipate any problems, according to WilliamsâÄô testimony. âÄúHe certainly did. He offered me the job. I remember it as clearly as I am sitting here today,âÄù Williams testified, according to the Pioneer Press. âÄúThere is absolutely no doubt he said that. Anyone who says anything differently is lying.âÄù Smith testified that he never told Williams to quit his job. NCAA reports showed that Williams had been cited for recruiting violations in 1976 and 1988 for providing financial aid, airline tickets, clothing and meals to prospective players. Williams was barred from recruiting for two years and the menâÄôs basketball program was put on two yearsâÄô probation. When Maturi learned of the violations, he called Smith and let him know hiring Williams was out of the question, citing in his testimony the history of violations the basketball program has endured in recent decades. âÄúThe University respects the jury process, but respectfully disagrees that Joel Maturi or Tubby Smith did anything wrong,âÄù University of Minnesota General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said in a release. âÄúRefusing to hire Jimmy Williams was the right call, and the University stands behind these officials.âÄù Rotenberg added in an interview that the amount being asked is âÄúcompletely unjustified by the facts in the case,âÄù and if paid, would come from the UniversityâÄôs wholly-owned subsidiary insurance company, RUMINCO LTD. âÄúNobodyâÄôs raiding the UniversityâÄôs bank account on this,âÄù Rotenberg said. âÄúYou wouldnâÄôt see a tuition hike or anything.âÄù Rotenberg said the University will consider an appeal, though he did not want to discuss any strategy at this time. –Trevor Born contributed to this story.