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HOOPS: Tubby Smith stays low-key while working for Gophers

MINNEAPOLIS -- New Gophers football coach Tim Brewster has been more visible than a politician seeking election, bombarding TV, radio, print media and the Internet with the message that his program has set its sights on the Rose Bowl.

MINNEAPOLIS -- New Gophers football coach Tim Brewster has been more visible than a politician seeking election, bombarding TV, radio, print media and the Internet with the message that his program has set its sights on the Rose Bowl.

But what about Tubby Smith? Some Gophers fans have been moved to ask "Where's Tubby?" in regard to the relatively low profile of the new men's basketball coach.

To which Smith says: "Don't worry about me. I know what it takes to get the job done."

Smith acknowledged Tuesday that his style might appear to be more low-key than his football counterpart. But the veteran basketball coach, with a resume that includes a national title, said he doesn't feel compelled to sell himself to state fans.

"People will know me soon enough," Smith said. "And I think they know me pretty well already, based on national coverage (at his previous job at Kentucky). (ASTERISK) If you don't know Tubby Smith and you follow college basketball, well, we can't find you. You must be in a cave somewhere."

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Smith laughed heartily as he spoke. He had the appearance of a man at ease in his new job, sporting a black sport shirt with a Minnesota "M" on his chest as he sat in a Williams Arena meeting room. He exuded confidence that he will win at Minnesota the way he won at Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky.

If he hasn't been in the public eye, he said, it is not because he hasn't been working toward winning. Smith said his three months on the job have focused on recruiting, getting a handle on returning talent, serving on national coaching committees, buying and selling homes (the Smiths close Friday on their new Minneapolis home) and monitoring his charity work.

"I've been busy with a lot of obligations, but that hasn't deterred me from getting it done," he said.

Getting it done hinges mostly on recruiting after a 9-22 finish last season, when Dan Monson was fired only seven games into the season. The recruiting evaluation period begins Sunday and runs through the end of the month, and Smith said this summer's decisions will be critical to the program. The Gophers could have five scholarships available for high school seniors, and that doesn't count the commitment the team received from Texas guard Nathen Garth.

Smith said his priority will be recruiting post players. Starters Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman will be seniors next season, and sophomore-to-be Bryce Webster might not return, Smith acknowledged.

"We don't know about Bryce Webster," Smith said. "He's going to have to make a decision. ... We're trying to give him time to make the correct decision for everyone involved."

The second priority for Smith is finding a point guard to help replace senior Lawrence McKenzie.

The departure of underclassmen Limar Wilson and Engen Nurumbi left Smith with two scholarships for next season, and one was awarded to former walk-on Jamal Abu-Shamala. Smith said it's unlikely he will add anyone, but did say the Gophers are scouting in Europe and Africa.

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"I'm not one of those guys who will panic and run out and do something," he said. "But we're looking, keeping our eyes and ears open. Maybe someone will surface over the next few weeks."

Although he hasn't signed his actual contract, he said that wasn't unusual, saying, "I went six to eight months without signing at Georgia." He also said he's happy with the memorandum of understanding that he signed.

"I love it here," Smith said. "This is a great job."

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