Tubby Smith Names 2007 Coaching staff

University of Minnesota head men's basketball coach Tubby Smith announced his staff today for the 2007-08 season. Smith has named Ron Jirsa, Vince Taylor and Saul Smith assistant coaches and Joe Esposito the director of basketball operations.

"My goal was to assemble one of, if not the best, staff in the country and I believe that goal has been reached," Minnesota head men's basketball coach Tubby Smith said. "I have close professional and personal ties to each coach on this staff, and with familiarity brings understanding, of the way we want to run this program. They understand what it will take to bring the Gopher program to the top of college basketball."
Ron Jirsa, Associate Head Coach
This is Jirsa's fourth stop with Coach Smith in his 24-year collegiate coaching career. Smith and Jirsa first began their working relationship at Virginia Commonwealth, where both served under coach J.D. Barnett during the 1984-85 season. The Rams finished 26-6 that season, winning the Sun Belt Conference title and playing in the NCAA Tournament. They reunited when Smith hired Jirsa as an assistant at Tulsa before the 1991-92 season. Three years later, Jirsa was named Associate Head Coach of the Golden Hurricane.
Jirsa, 45, accompanied Smith to Georgia when he took over the Bulldog program in 1995. For two years, he served as Associate Head Coach for Smith at Georgia before serving as head coach from 1997-99. His Bulldog squads posted a combined 35-30 record. During his time in Athens, the Bulldogs put together back-to-back recruiting classes that were rated among the top-five in the nation by several recruiting analysts. Jirsa's teams also made two NIT appearances. In his first season, UGA posted a 20-15 record, only the seventh 20-win season in UGA history, en route to a third-place finish in the NIT. Jirsa's Bulldogs put together a 4-1 record in the postseason with wins over Iowa, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt and Fresno State in March 1998.
In his six seasons with Smith, Jirsa helped four consecutive teams win at least 21 games and reach the NCAA Tournament each season. The first three of those – two at Tulsa and one at Georgia – reached the Sweet Sixteen.
Jirsa had spent the previous four seasons as head coach at Marshall University. The Thundering Herd went 13-19 in 2006-07, losing to Memphis in the Conference USA Tournament Quarterfinals. Marshall had several big wins during Jirsa's four-year tenure. The Herd notched victories over NCAA Tournament teams UAB and Western Michigan in 2003-04, and in 2004-05, Marshall knocked off eventual Elite Eight participant West Virginia in the two teams' annual game in Charleston. In 2005-06, the Herd won its first game against a top-10 opponent when Jirsa's club defeated No. 9 West Virginia again in Charleston.
Prior to his arrival at Marshall, Jirsa was an assistant coach at Dayton under then-head coach Oliver Purnell for four seasons. During his stint at UD, the Flyers posted an 88-39 overall record, made two NCAA Tournament and two NIT appearances. In 2002-03, Dayton posted a 24-6 record, won the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship, advanced to the NCAA Tournament as a four seed, and finished the season ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in the final Associated Press and USA Today polls.
Jirsa began his coaching career as an assistant at Connecticut College following his graduation from Gettysburg College in 1981. Two years later, he moved on to the University of Delaware and spent one season with the Blue Hens before taking a graduate assistant position with a VCU program that finished ranked 11th in the nation in 1984-85.
He then took an assistant position at Tulsa for three seasons (1985-88) before making one- year stops at Belmont Abbey (1988-89), and Gardner-Webb (1990-91). At Tulsa, Jirsa coached with former Golden Gopher Flip Saunders. In 1991, he returned to Tulsa as an assistant under Smith before being promoted to associate head coach in 1994.
Jirsa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Gettysburg College in 1981 and a Master of Arts in Athletic Administration from the University of Tulsa in 1987. He was a three-sport letterwinner at Ledyard High School in Ledyard, Connecticut. He and his wife Laura have one daughter, Hannah (6).
Saul Smith – Assistant Coach
Saul Smith has served the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Tennessee Tech under head coach Mike Sutton. Smith was involved in all phases of the program, including player development, recruiting, organization, on-floor coaching and academics. When Sutton was stricken with Guillian Barre Syndrome, Smith assisted associate head coach Steve Payne with guiding the Golden Eagles to two of the most successful seasons in school history.
Smith lettered four years at Kentucky under his father, head coach Tubby Smith, and started at point guard for the Wildcats in each of his final two seasons. He was part of winning three SEC Championships, three SEC Tournament titles and one NCAA National Championship. Smith ranks 10th all-time in Kentucky basketball history with 363 assists. Smith led the Wildcats in assists in both the 1999-2000 and the 2000-01 seasons and in steals with 51 during the 2000-01 season.
After his Kentucky career, Smith was invited to the Houston Rockets summer camp before spending two years playing for the NBDL's Columbus Riverdragons.
Smith spent the 2003-04 season on the Kentucky coaching staff while completing his bachelor's degree in economics. Smith is single and lives in Minneapolis.
Vince Taylor – Assistant Coach
Vince Taylor joins Coach Smith's staff after spending the previous two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA. With the T-Wolves, Taylor was responsible for player development.
Prior to arriving in Minnesota, Taylor spent seven seasons as an assistant at the University of Louisville, four under Rick Pitino and three under Denny Crum. While with the Louisville program, Taylor earned the reputation as one of the nation's top recruiters. He helped the Cardinals land a top-five recruiting class in 2001 under Pitino that included McDonald's All-American Carlos Hurt. Taylor was also heavily responsible for the recruitment of Reece Gaines to Louisville. Gaines was a four-year starter and was named third team All-American as a senior. Gaines was the 15th pick of the 2003 NBA Entry Draft. In 2005, Louisville returned to the Final Four with many Taylor's recruits including Francisco Garcia. Garcia was then selected at the 23rd pick in the 2005 Draft by Sacramento.
Before joining the Louisville staff in 1998, Taylor was an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh (1997-98) and briefly at the University of Wyoming (1998).
Before Taylor began his coaching career, he spent 13 seasons playing professional basketball in Europe, including the last two as a player/assistant coach in the Belgian professional league. Additionally, he averaged 3.1 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in 31 contests with the New York Knicks in 1982-83 after being selected by the team in the second round (33rd overall) of the 1982 NBA Draft. Taylor was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 1983-84 before beginning his European career in 1984, initially in Italy (1984-86), then moving to France (1986-92) and finishing his career in Belgium (1992-97).
A standout guard at Duke University, Taylor earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference and honorable mention All-America honors as a senior (1981-82) by averaging 20.3 points per game. During Taylor's collegiate career, the Blue Devils won the 1979 ACC regular season championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice (1979 and 1980) and National Invitational Tournament once (1981). Taylor, who scored 1,445 career collegiate points, finished his career as one of the top 10 scorers in Duke history. He once held the school record by playing in 120 consecutive games.
A 1982 graduate of Duke with a bachelor's degree in economics, Taylor was named to the President's List at Duke his senior year. That honor is awarded to only five percent of the student body, and is based on contributions to the university and academic achievements.
Taylor prepped at Tates Creek High School, where he was a McDonald's high school All-American as a senior in 1978 while averaging 29.3 points and 11 rebounds per game.
A native of Lexington, Ky., Taylor has two children: son, Brendan, and, daughter, Maya.
Joe Esposito - Director of Basketball Operations
Joe Esposito joins Tubby Smith's Gopher staff as the Director of Basketball Operations. He will be in charge of all administrative duties of the Golden Gopher basketball program. Esposito spent the past season as the head coach at The Villages Charter High School in Florida where he recorded the best record in school history and advanced The Villages to the Class 3A District 7 Final Four. In addition, Esposito was a computer science teacher at the school.
Prior to The Villages Charter School, Esposito was the head coach at Angelo State for seven seasons. Esposito recorded 118 wins in those seven seasons and left the school with the highest winning percentage of any coach in the program's history. In 2000-01, the Rams advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time in 10 years and only the third time in school history. Angelo State won the Lone Star Conference South Division Championship with a 22-8 record which tied the highest single-season win total in school history. In addition, Esposito was voted LSC South Coach of the Year in 2001.
In 2002, Esposito led the team to their fourth consecutive winning season, the first time ASU had posted four straight winning seasons since the 1980s. In just four seasons, Esposito led the Rams to three of the top five single season win totals in school history and three straight post-season berths. In 2003, ASU posted their fifth winning season in a row, a mark only matched one other time in the history of the program. He left the program as one of the winningest coaches in Lone Star Conference history.
Esposito's relationship with Coach Smith dates back to his tenure as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Tennessee State. For three seasons (1995-98), Esposito was responsible for recruiting three Ohio Valley Conference Freshmen of the Year to TSU and both his 1996-97 and 1997-98 recruiting classes were ranked among the top 30 in the nation by Hoop Scoop.
Before his tenure at Tennessee State, Esposito was the interim head coach at Assumption College, an NCAA Division II powerhouse in the Northeast-10 Conference for half a season. Prior to being named head coach, Esposito also served as an assistant and then associate head coach for Assumption, prior to assuming temporary head coaching duties in 1994.
During his tenure at Assumption, the Greyhounds won three straight conference titles, appeared twice in the NCAA Division II regionals and set records for wins and winning streaks at the school. Esposito also has served as an assistant coach at Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, N.Y., and was a student assistant at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. His coaching resume also includes a stint as an assistant coach at the Bay State and Empire State games.
A native of New York, Esposito received his bachelor of science degree in computer science in 1988 from Marist College and his master of science in sports administration and coaching from the United States Sports Academy in Mobile, Ala., in 1990.
Esposito and his wife, Tammy, a former collegiate diver at the University of Connecticut, have two sons, Jordan Michael (10) and Jacob O'Neal (7), and a daughter, Shay Lynn (5).

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