Keeping players out of off-the-court trouble has been difficult enough for Tubby Smith during his six-year tenure at Minnesota. Now the Golden Gophers coach has to worry about his own son's run-in with the law.
Saul Smith, an assistant coach on his father's staff, was placed on unpaid administrative leave Sunday after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol early Saturday morning. Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Monday he's still evaluating whether the younger Smith will remain suspended until his Dec. 3 court date.
"We just can't have behavior like that," Teague said. "It's just not good for anyone, it's embarrassing and I won't tolerate it.
"With a coach doing this, it's disappointing. The timing is one thing. The other thing is it's just not what we want."
The timing of Smith's DUI could not be worse for Minnesota because it comes mere days after a judge's lenience breathed new life into star forward Trevor Mbakwe's basketball career. Judge Jose Fernandez opted not to give Mbakwe jail time due to a parole violation stemming from a July DUI, instead merely handing down two years of probation and requiring Mbakwe to attend AA meetings and perform community service.
It would be as embarrassing for Minnesota were these isolated incidents, but the Golden Gophers have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons all too often under Tubby Smith. Mbakwe missed a year while awaiting trial on felony assault charges, Royce White left the program following multiple legal issues and other key contributors have transferred or lost time due to off-the-court woes.
Combine those problems with Tubby Smith's inability to advance the program on the court as quickly as fans would like, and there's some pressure on the Minnesota coach entering this season. The Gophers haven't finished above .500 in the Big Ten or advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament in any of Smith's five seasons at the school.
There's reason to believe that Minnesota could be vastly improved this season, however, if the Gophers can remain healthy for once and curb this trend of legal issues.
The return of Mbakwe and Maurice Walker from injury should bolster a frontcourt that also includes last year's breakout star, Rodney Williams, who finally took initiative on offense this past season. And in the backcourt, point guard Andre Hollins' late-season surge as a freshman was the key to the Gophers' deep NIT run.
That's a nucleus that can put the Gophers in the headlines for the right reasons in March . But only if they can avoid landing in them for the wrong reasons anymore this winter.