Preferred Candidate for Gophers' Coaching Position Likely Unavailable

Updated: 03/27/2013 7:56 AM KSTP.com By: Chris Long

The Gophers' prime target to succeed Tubby Smith is apparently staying put.

Several reports - from national outlets and locally in Richmond, Virginia - say Virginia Commonweath University coach Shaka Smart is in talks to renegotiate his contract in order to remain at VCU.

USA Today cited an anonymous source with the school saying both Minnesota and UCLA had reached out to Smart about their coaching vacancies.

Smart was initially hired at VCU by current Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague before he moved to the same position at Minnesota.

Smart has won 111 games in four seasons coaching the Rams, and has guided his team to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

The Rams just completed their first season in the Atlantic 10 Conference, in which they finished second in the regular season and conference playoffs.

Smart made $1.3-million at VCU last season, compared to the $2-million Smith made in salary at Minnesota.  It's assumed Smart's new deal would be roughly equal to Smith's compensation level.

Smith was fired Monday after six seasons at the helm of the Gophers basketball program.

Others who might be in the Gophers' sights include a collection of coaches who advanced through the "Villa 7" networking program initiated by current Gophers Associate Athletic Director Mike Ellis.

Among them are Marquette's Buzz Williams, Xavier's Chris Mack, Florida Gulf Coast's Andy Enfield, UNLV's Dave Rice, Alabama's Anthony Grant, and Syracuse associate coach Mike Hopkins.

Former Timberwolves coach and Minnesota alumnus Flip Saunders has also expressed interest.  A booster told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS' Darren Wolfson on Tuesday that Saunders is under consideration. But he appears to be a fallback plan.

The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein reported via Twitter that Minnesota has interest in talking to Duke assistant Chris Collins, but he's the front-runner for the Northwestern job.

Memphis' Josh Pastner also appears to be staying put, according to reports. Wolfson also hears that a hot name, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, is not currently in the mix. The same can be said for Villanova's Jay Wright.