Auburn is "close to hiring" Tubby Smith as its new basketball coach, a source that I trust told me Thursday night.The Sporting News has thoughts on who other possible candidates for Jeff Lebo's former job are.
It could be nothing, but it is known that the school might be looking for an African-American coach. And Tubby getting back to the SEC would make sense. It's not the pressure cooker of Kentucky. It's a new building and a lot of rebuilding with the Tigers.
Other possible candidates are Texas-El Paso coach Tony Barbee, Missouri's Mike Anderson, former Auburn player Chuck Person, and former NBA coach Sam Mitchell.The Birmingham News has more:
Smith had a 45-19 record at Georgia. In his 10 seasons at Kentucky, Smith had a record of 263-83, including an NCAA Championship in 1998. His career record is 443-174.
Auburn, which has spent $90 million on a basketball arena that will open next season, is prepared to make another sizable investment in the sport when it hires its new basketball coach.In the same article, there's the ever-so-classic denial:
People familiar with the search process say the university is willing to significantly increase what it has paid former coaches in order to attract someone with a proven record to replace Jeff Lebo, who was fired last Friday. A list of candidates includes coaches who could command high salaries, such as Minnesota's Tubby Smith, who has SEC experience at Kentucky and Georgia. Auburn may make a play for him.[...]
The four highest-paid coaches in the SEC are Kentucky's John Calipari, at $3.9 million; Florida's Billy Donovan, at $3.4 million; Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, at $2.4 million; and Alabama's Anthony Grant, at $1.8 million. Lebo was the lowest-paid coach in the SEC, at $750,000 annually.
Depending on who Auburn hires, the new coach's salary could be close to that of football coach Gene Chizik, who will make $2.1 million this year.
"There's always talk about coaches leaving and players leaving. It's part of the business. We're happy here," Smith said in a follow-up story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.Of course, Minnesota's AD has heard the rumors. Remember, Tubby Smith left the pressure cooker of Kentucky for a university whose fan base appreciated winning but didn't have the extra pressure of WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS.
Director Joel Maturi says he's "heard the rumors" that Auburn may make a play for Gophers' basketball coach Tubby Smith, "but I haven't gotten the call," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press this morning.
Maturi said neither Auburn nor Smith has contacted him about the rumors.[...]
Maturi said in a Pioneer Press story Thursday that Minnesota can't afford to give Smith a raise because of a salary freeze, and the school can't compete with the $2 million salaries of other successful coaches in the Big Ten.
"We can't match that. We won't begin to match that," he told the newspaper.
Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs has not publicly identified who Auburn is considering, but has said no official contact would be made with candidates until after their basketball seasons are complete. Minnesota faces Xavier in the NCAA Tournament today.