The Minnesota Gophers basketball team went on the road for the first time this year as they participated in the SoCal Challenge in Southern California right before Thanksgiving. Another team that was in the tournament was High Point University. High Point is coached by Tubby Smith’s son, G.G. Smith. G.G. was named Tubby’s replacement last year when Tubby retired after coaching at his alma mater for four years.
Tubby attended the SoCal Challenge to watch his son coach his former team, where bettors had the opportunity to bet on all the games with online pokies. GopherHole was able to talk to Tubby after High Point won the Sand Division in the tournament.
Huge thanks to Tubby Smith for giving us some of his time to talk about his son and the Minnesota program.
Below is our quick conversation from the SoCal Challenge.
GopherHole: What’s it like seeing your son coach on the sidelines?
Tubby: When you’ve been as busy as long as I have, you think you’ve seen it all. But when you see your son… And a lot of the players that were on that team are returning players in the last few years and we’ve had some tough few years. So to see them come out of this tournament with this championship and be five and one… I’m really proud of how hard they played and the good job that G.G. has done.
GopherHole: Is it hard to watch when you’re a parent and a former coach?
Tubby: Yeah. Emotionally. Yeah, it’s been uneasy. I don’t know. Well, you’re excited, but I’m more nervous. Because you really don’t have much control at all now. Even though you thought you had control when you were on the bench, you’re not sure if you did or not. But now you have absolutely no control, and there’s nothing you can really say except be positive and cheerful, but it’s tough. But I’ve been blessed to have been able to coach my sons, and I coached GG at Georgia. I coached Saul at Kentucky, and those were the six winning issues in my college coaching career. But I say that because GiGi is an outstanding coach. He did a good job in Loyola. We had a change in administration, but he’s won championships wherever he’s been as a player.
GopherHole: Have you kept track of the Minnesota program? Ben Johnson is in his second year, and they are at this tournament. What do you think of Ben Johnson so far or the Gopher team in general?
Tubby: I caught part of the DePaul game, tough one, Again, he’s got people hurt from what I read. He’s going to be an outstanding coach. Obviously, being a homegrown kid and having connections with the coaches in the area and AAU programs there. You’ll keep some of the best players in the state of Minnesota at home. And the best part about Minnesota is that they are the only division in school in Minnesota, at least until St. Thomas becomes division one. But that was one thing that was unique about the University of Minnesota. We really enjoyed our stay there. So yeah, I’m really pulling for him. I think he’ll do well, and I think the sky’s the limit for him.
GopherHole: Do you keep track of all of your Minnesota players?
Tubby: We try to. I’ve had a lot of players over the years. I’ve been in a lot of different places, but the guys like the Hollins boys and Trevor Mbakwe I mean, I’ve called or followed. Especially Blake Hoffarber. We had some good ones. We really got to know some well, and they have still stayed in the area. That’s the good thing about it. And when we recruited those boys, I told them I said, “Look, come here because… Minneapolis or Minnesota is a place you’d like to live and raise your family.”
I’ve coached in some great places where I’ve always felt comfortable raising my family there. In places like Kentucky, or Athens, Georgia. Lexington, Kentucky. Lubbock, Texas. That’s where I went after I left Minnesota. So it’s great to see those programs doing well, and that’s why I’m hoping that Minnesota can get back. Richard did a good job, but it’s tough now. Don’t get me wrong. Minnesota’s a tough job. It may be the first or second toughest job in the Big Ten.
Tubby: Yeah. You don’t realize that because people are using the weather against you, your record against you, and some of the things that have happened in the past against you. I don’t know where they are picked this year, but I think if they can get healthy, it will be interesting how they play today (against UNLV).