The Big Mac Blog

Tech Tears: Tubby “Tuberville” Smith spurns the Red Raiders

Tubby Smith left Texas Tech to become the new head coach at Memphis
Tubby Smith left Texas Tech to become the new head coach at Memphis AP

After so many flop hires Texas Tech had at least one smashing success of a head coach who loved Lubbock so much he just left.

Men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith Tommy Tuberville’d the Red Raiders as he bolted from Lubbock to become the new head coach at Memphis.

Smith is the new head coach at Memphis after he agreed to a five-year, $15.45 million contract. Smith is hired to return the Memphis program to the levels of success achieved by current Kentucky head coach John Calipari; it was Calipari who was hired at Kentucky to restore that program to the levels of success before Tubby replaced Rick Pitino.

Got that?

Tubby had created his basketball bliss at Tech until he realized he wanted to be important again and accepted a job that has an established a basketball tradition, a basketball recruiting base and a basketball following. Memphis is not Duke or Kentucky, but Tubby can attract big time recruits five-minutes from campus and reach a Final Four. He will also be bigger than football.

In Lubbock, that was never going to happen.

The sad part is that Texas Tech did everything right and Tubby owed Tech some loyalty to which he, predictably, showed zero. That’s the business of college basketball. Tubby’s flee to the east is similar to Tommy Tuberville, the former football coach who happily took Tech’s job offer when no one else would touch him in 2010. Like Tubby Smith, he lasted three years in Lubbock and then got the hell out of town as fast as he could to Cincinnati in 2013.

It was Tech that hired Tubby Smith in 2013 after the University of Minnesota fired him. And this was well after Kentucky all but ran him out of Lexington in 2007.

When Tubby arrived in Lubbock in ‘13, he was at best damaged goods. Tech was also a damaged program. It was the ideal basketball marriage. If Tubby could do what he did at Georgia, or Minnesota, and just get the Red Raiders into the NCAA tournament, it would work.

Tech did not have a winning season in Tubby’s first two years, but this season the Red Raiders won 19 games and reached the NCAAs for the first time since 2007.

46-50: Tubby Smith’s three year record at Texas Tech. The team was 19-13 this season and reached the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

But Tubby likely quietly realized what all men’s basketball coaches in Texas know - they are second class citizens to football. That status brings the protection of fragmented expectations, and it can drive a guy nuts.

It drove Tubby to a lesser conference but a basketball job. Memphis is a basketball school.

The sad part for Tech is that Tubby had solved its basketball problem that began when the Bob Knight hiring grew stale around 2005.

Since the 2007-’08 season, the Red Raiders have had Bob Knight, Pat Knight, Billy Gillispie, Chris Walker and Tubby Smith as their head men’s basketball coach. That’s about three too many.

Now the Red Raiders have to find a guy who can win, and won’t use it as a stepping-stone job.

At least one report speculates that recently hired UNLV head coach Chris Beard, who had been at Arkansas-Little Rock, will go to Lubbock to accept the Tech job. He was an assistant at Tech under Bob Knight, and his wife and their three daughters are currently living in Lubbock.

Tubby cleaned up the Red Raiders and he built something that should attract a decent head coach. Maybe this time the next guy won’t leave.

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