Minnesota AD expects Smith to return

After a meeting with head basketball coach Tubby Smith, Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi told the St. Paul Pioneer Press Friday that he expected Smith to return.

"There have been rumors every year; not certain what ones are true," Maturi told the Pioneer Press in a text message. "I have stated often that I hope and expect Tubby to finish his career here."

Maturi said he spoke to Smith Friday, but did not divulge details of the conversation, the Pioneer Press reported.

Various reports Friday said LSU athletic director Joe Alleva spoke with Smith about the job, presumably Thursday when both me were in the Norfolk, Va. area where the Portsmouth Invitational is ongoing. LSU also interviewed North Texas coach Johnny Jones about the job Tuesday.

This kind of story is nothing new for folks in Minnesota in the Smith era. The former Kentucky, Ge0rgia and Tulsa coach has been a strong candidate for various jobs during his five-year run at Minnesota.

There have been flirtations in recent years with Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, Auburn, and Oregon. That trend continued this season when he was a candidate for both the South Carolina job that eventually went to Kansas State's Frank Martin and at Tulsa, where Smith held his first head coach job. That job eventually went to Kansas assistant coach Danny Manning.

Smith, 60, has been pushing for a contract extension from Minnesota, a request complicated by the pending retirement of Maturi in June. Minnesota wants to wait until Maturi's replacement is identified before dealing with Smith's contract. Smith has also been unhappy with his program's lack of a practice facility. LSU has a new facility that cost just under $14 million to build.

LSU might hesitate based on Smith's advanced age - he'll be 61 by the time the fall semester begins - and recent issues in the Minnesota program. While his 491-209 career record with a national championship in 1998 with Kentucky are impressive, his Gophers teams have missed the NCAA tournament the last two seasons and his teams have gone 12-24 in Big 10 play.

He has also had six players transfer out of his program in the last two years.