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Tubby Smith: 'I still have that fire in my belly'

Associated Press Modified: April 25, 2012 at 5:01 am •  Published: April 25, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As Virginia Commonwealth's athletic director, Norwood Teague helped raise money for a new $10 million practice facility, saw the Rams reach the Final Four for the first time in program history and persuaded sought-after coach Shaka Smart to stay put.

That's a lot of success at a mid-major school, or any place for that matter. Well, Teague will have to keep up the hard work at Minnesota: There are plenty of men's basketball issues that need his attention.

First, there is the contract status of head coach Tubby Smith, who hasn't won an NCAA tournament game here and is 38-52 in the Big Ten over five seasons. Smith has two years remaining on his original deal, which pays him $1.8 million annually, and representatives for the school and Smith have not reached agreement on an extension, which was first broached after last season.

Then there is the lack of a specific practice facility.

"We're in the Big Ten, and we've got to have facilities that are Big Ten facilities," Teague said. "So in the next years to come, it's going to be important that we raise money."

This is an issue in Smith's contract talks, but it's also a factor in the direction of the program, which was ravaged by an academic fraud scandal in 1999 and hasn't been able to sustain any success since a Final Four appearance in 1997.

"We shouldn't be the last school in the Big Ten with a practice facility. If anything we should have been the first," Smith said Monday after Teague was introduced. "But I think he is a guy that can sell that dream. He's done it before."

The relationship between Teague and Smith will be critical for the future of the Gophers men's basketball, and Smith — who will turn 61 this year — was beaming about his new boss. Smith was an assistant coach at VCU from 1979-86, long before Teague arrived, but they've already met.

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