Gophers, Smith agree to three-year extension

Coach Tubby Smith is coming off back-to-back losing seasons in the Big Ten.

Andrew Krammer

Gophers men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith and the University of Minnesota have come to terms on a contract extension through the 2016-17 season, athletics director Norwood Teague announced Monday.

The announcement ended months of anticipation about a possible deal, which started last season and carried over into Teague’s first month as athletics director.

Minnesota has missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons, finishing 6-12 in conference play both times. But the team is coming off a 23-win season that included an appearance in the 2012 NIT Championship game.

Smith, 61, had two years left on his original seven-year contract that paid him $1.8 million annually. The terms of the new deal have not yet been disclosed.

“Tubby took over our program at a difficult time and quickly got it headed back in the right direction, both athletically and academically,” Teague said in a statement. “Since then, Gopher basketball has continued to make strides under his leadership with four postseason appearances, including last year’s exciting run to the NIT title game.”

Smith led the Gophers to the NCAA tournament in 2009 and 2010, but his teams have struggled with transfers and injuries ever since.

This spring, however, the team’s star forward Trevor Mbakwe received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. With him and difference-makers Rodney Williams, Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins returning in the fall, expectations for Smith’s Gophers squad haven’t been higher since his arrival in 2007.

Many analysts have projected the Gophers to be a top-25 team in 2012. Tom Izzo, head coach of defending conference co-champion Michigan State, called them a “sleeper team” and a “contender,” the Detroit Free Press reported earlier this month.

“I believe that we can get the job done here,” Smith said in a statement. “The commitment from the University is there to continue to grow the program, and I am looking forward to being a part of that.”

Smith has dismissed rumors over the last couple of years that he would take open head coaching positions at other schools such as Tulsa and Louisiana State.

He has also expressed his displeasure with the Gophers’ lack of a practice facility. When Teague was hired in April, however, he expressed optimism that the new AD would use his background in fundraising to help build one.