Tubby Smith is headed to Texas Tech Red Raiders to turn around another wayward program.
Interim coach Chris Walker went 11-20 this season and 3-15 in Big 12 play as the program tried to get over Billy Gillispie’s volatile one-year tenure, which ended when he resigned in September.
Smith was fired by Minnesota Golden Gophers last week after 6 seasons; however it failed to take long for him to land on his feet.
He led the Golden Gophers to 3 NCAA tournaments and this year delivered the program’s first tourney win – over 6th-seeded UCLA Bruins – since 1997. He went 124-81 (.610), winning 20 games 5 times. But he never finished higher than 6th in the Big 10, going just 46-62 in meeting play, and Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague decided it was time to go in another direction.
In all, Smith is 511-226 (.693) in 22 seasons and his teams have won 20-plus games 19 times.
Smith got a 6-year deal from the Red Raiders and will be the 4th person to lead Texas Tech in as many seasons.
The 61-year-old Smith might be just what Texas Tech needs. The AP Coach of the Year in 2003, Smith has a name as a program builder who doesn’t cut corners. His teams have been clean and doing things the right way could go a ways toward bringing name recognition to the school not historically on the college basketball map and after the past two seasons’ difficulties.
The Red Raiders last went to the NCAA tournament in 2007, Bob Knight’s last full season in Lubbock. It’s been usually downhill since then.
Two years ago, Texas Tech fans pinned their hopes on Gillispie after he’d turned around 2 other flagging programs in the state, UTEP and Texas A&M. Basketball odds
As an alternative he more looked like the guy who was fired at Kentucky, a hard-driving coach who had a difficult time connecting with the players he inherited. Several players from Gillispie’s inaugural and lone season in West Texas left the program and complained to athletic director Kirby Hocutt about how Gillispie treated them.
There were some secondary NCAA violations for exceeding practice times and it all led straight to the Texas Tech finishing 8-23 and winning only 1 Big 12 game in 2011-12, the program’s worst season since 1990-91.
Gillispie stepped down in September, citing health reasons after 2 stays in the hospital. Walker, an assistant at a few schools for 17 years, led Texas Tech to an improved season but the Houston native’s lack of experience as a head coach likely worked against him.
Smith won a national title and 5 Southeastern Conference championships with Kentucky before the demanding Wildcat loyal pushed him to leave for Minnesota in 2007. Smith, who got replaced at Kentucky by Gillispie, in addition has taken Tulsa and Georgia to the round of 16.
Now he’ll try and do it another time at Texas Tech, where he currently succeeds Gillispie.
In a strange twist, Smith landed a job before Minnesota was able to replace him. Teague and associate athletic director Mike Ellis have spent the week trying to land a big name, but so far have not been able to persuade a handful of them to take the job.