Saul Smith to rejoin Gophers after arrest

The assistant coach had been on unpaid administrative leave following his Oct. 20 DWI arrest.

Andrew Krammer

Gophers assistant men’s basketball coach Saul Smith will rejoin the team Nov. 13 following his Oct. 20 arrest for suspicion of drunken driving, athletics director Norwood Teague said Friday in a conference call with the media.

Smith, 33, is now on paid administrative leave for two weeks until he rejoins the team. The assistant coach had been on unpaid leave from Oct. 21-25.

“Discipline like this, I feel, is appropriate in light of what happened,” Teague said. “We don’t take this lightly.”

Smith’s court date was moved up from Dec. 3 to Nov. 9.

A first-time offender, Smith will miss two regular-season games with the Gophers while fulfilling requirements similar to those Trevor Mbakwe is set to fulfill.

“He is to undertake counseling and education about alcohol use with a provider or outside group that I approve,” Teague said. “When he comes back to work, he’ll meet with his staff and team to apologize for his actions and talk about what he’s learned.”

Smith, whose base salary is about $91,000, lost roughly $1,000 to $2,000 in his five-day unpaid leave.

Teague said he’s received letters from stakeholders and fans asking for Smith to be fired.

“Certainly we don’t want to copy what others do, but rarely have I seen an assistant coach fired for this,” Teague said.

Smith’s father, head coach Tubby Smith, said his son’s situation is similar to Mbakwe’s in that he needs to work his way back onto the team.

“If you have a problem, you don’t just dismiss people,” Tubby Smith told the Minnesota Daily on Thursday at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago. “As a parent or as a coach, it’s not the way we want to operate.”

Teague said the alcohol counseling assigned to Saul Smith was “an appropriate response.”

“If [alcohol use] is something he’s been struggling with, I don’t know,” Teague said. “I’m not privy to that — I can’t comment on that.”

Teague said if Saul Smith has another drinking and driving incident, he would be subject to more discipline, including “possible termination from the University.”

“I’m going to hold this department to a higher standard,” Teague said.