If Tubby Smith Leaves Minnesota For Maryland's Coaching Vacancy, Would Flip Saunders Replace Him?

Fans of college basketball are probably well aware of this news by now, but Maryland Terrapins head coach Gary Williams retired on Thursday after 22 years on the job, opening the door for what could be an interesting coaching search for one  more prestigious NCAA basketball programs.

Typically this wouldn't be news to the readers of SB Nation Minnesota, but if University of Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith left the Golden Gophers to replace Williams and Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders returned to his alma mater, Minnesotans would surely have a reason to care. And, according to the Charley Waters of the Pioneer Press, that could be a possibility.

Smith was born in Scotland, Md., a couple of hours from the university, leading Waters to believe that it would be a job that Smith might consider leaving Minnesota -- and the $2 million a year he's under contract to receive through the 2014 season -- for a job closer to home.

While that's interesting, it'd be tough to blame Smith for wanting to get closer to home and a bigger paycheck, despite the negative consequences that it could have on the U's basketball program. It'd be even harder to blame Smith for leaving if, in return, the Gophers were able to lure Saunders away from the NBA as Waters suggests.

If Smith, who is headed to Saturday's Kentucky Derby, were to leave Minnesota, the top candidate to replace him would be former Gophers guard Flip Saunders, 56, who resides in Medina and has two years remaining as coach of the Washington Wizards for $8 million. Saunders might be willing to return to his alma mater for the right deal.

Saunders' son Ryan, a former Gophers guard, is an assistant with the Wizards, as is Don Zierden, whose son Isaiah is a junior guard at Benilde-St. Margaret's and a Division I prospect. Don Zierden would be expected to follow Flip to Minnesota.

It all seems pretty unlikely if you ask this writer, but as J.P. from Angels in the Outfield once said, "Hey, it could happen!"

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