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Mark Gottfried Exits Stage Left ... Enter Tubby Smith?

That’s the chatter from Yellowhammer State. It started up a week or so ago, and went into overdrive in the last 48 hours when the Tide’s best player, Ronald Steele, said he’d be leaving the team indefinitely due to plantar fasciitis and something else that he wouldn’t elaborate about. After Gottfried – the guy with the pesky wifestepped aside Monday (read: Was pushed out) – a tipster says the man behind the curtain pulling the strings is none other than CM Newton, the former Alabama hoops coach who later was the AD at Kentucky … where he hired Smith.

Why would Smith leave Minnesota, a place he hasn’t even been for two years? He signed a 7-year, $13 million deal that made him the highest paid employee in school history. He’s obviously building something nice there – he’s already nabbed two of the top three prep players in the State for next year, and the Gophers are a surprising 17-3. Smith has them on pace to be the school’s best team since the 1997 group (Sam Jacobson, Quincy Lewis and Bobby Jackson) that reached the Final Four, but was later erased from history – a la the Fab 5 – due to academic fraud.

Other names in the hopper: VCU’s Anthony Grant, UAB’s Mike Davis (he played at Alabama) and Gonzaga’s Mark Few, but two of those guys are going to be mentioned for any gig that becomes open.

Gottfried’s legacy: Talented recruiter (landed Gerald Wallace, Maurice Williams, Jermareo Davidson, all of whom are in the NBA now), underachiever as a coach. Sure, there were five straight trips to the NCAA tournament, but only once did he get out of the first weekend.

 

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