Head coach Tubby Smith sued by former assistant coach

Former assistant basketball coach Jimmy Williams is requesting $50,000 in damages from head coach Tubby Smith.

by Brittany Storoz

Former Minnesota assistant Gophers basketball coach Jimmy Williams is suing Tubby Smith, the teamâÄôs current head coach, for fraud and negligent misrepresentation, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Hennepin County on June 17. Williams is requesting damages in excess of $50,000 from Smith personally, on top of another pending lawsuit that he filed against the University of Minnesota in October 2007. According to the lawsuit, Smith offered Williams a coaching opportunity at Minnesota during a telephone conversation on April 2, 2007. The annual salary was said to be $200,000. The lawsuit alleges Smith said to Williams: âÄúI feel really good about this. I think you are the right person for the job. The thing I told you about being a mentor for my son; I think you’d be good at that, be good in that role. I think we’d be a great team together. I am really offering you the job, and I can get you the money that you wanted.âÄù Though Williams âÄî who was the Gophers basketball assistant coach from 1971 to 1986 âÄî still had one year left on his contract worth $200,000 as assistant coach for Oklahoma State, he quit his job and moved to Minnesota after Smith made the offer. The complaint states that Smith was aware of WilliamsâÄô decision to resign from his position with the Cowboys and told him to do so. During WilliamsâÄô previous tenure, there were a significant amount of NCAA rule violations that occurred in the basketball program to which Williams was linked. Williams still disputes the majority of the NCAA findings, but his record of violations was not overlooked when Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi made the final decision not to hire him. âÄúAll head coaches obviously put together a staff, but IâÄôm the final hiring authority at the University of Minnesota athletic department, âÄúMaturi said. âÄúWe feel weâÄôve followed the right process and have done the right thing.âÄù According to the lawsuit, Smith had alluded to Williams that he had final authority to hire Williams. University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, who will represent Smith, said Smith never promised Williams the job. âÄúThe job had to be agreed upon by the University of Minnesota and it wasnâÄôt,âÄù Rotenberg said. âÄúThe U of M never offered this man a job as TubbyâÄôs assistant coach.âÄù Williams is still seeking to be hired by Minnesota for the position Smith offered him in 2007, but Rotenberg said that will not happen. âÄúEven if the plaintiff were to win both of the cases, they will not result in Mr. Williams working as an assistant basketball coach,âÄù Rotenberg said. Williams is also seeking reparations for damages caused by leaving his coaching position at Oklahoma State. WilliamsâÄô attorney, Richard Hunegs , said Williams has had difficulty finding employment in his professional field since the incident, which has caused significant financial loss. Hunegs said the settlement of $50,000 is simply a requirement by Minnesota statute and has nothing to do with the amount of actual damages. Hunegs said that he and Williams are both confident that the court will side in their favor. âÄúIâÄôm very confident in the fairness of Minnesotans,âÄù Hunegs said. âÄúThese are the people who will sit on the jury, and Jimmy and I are both pleased with putting his fate in their hands.âÄù Rotenberg also expressed that he is fully confident Smith did nothing wrong. âÄúThe University believes that the claim in this new lawsuit against coach Smith lacks merit,âÄù Rotenberg said, âÄújust like the remaining single claim in the old lawsuit lacks merit.âÄù Though a court date for Williams and Smith has not yet been set, the civil complaint filed in 2007 against Maturi and the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota will be brought before Judge Regina Chu on Oct. 19.