Nov 5, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT
I couldn’t get anyone to say anything interesting about Tubby Smith. I thought this might hinder my efforts to write a feature about his first season at Texas Tech, until I realized something important..
Tubby Smith isn’t in the business of being interesting.
That’s part of what made him an ill fit at Kentucky, where the slowed-down style dubbed “Tubbyball” helped him win the 1998 national title that is still his calling card in coaching circles. It also got him on the bad side of Big Blue Nation, who howled with frustration watching prize recruit Rajon Rondo walking the ball up the court between 2005-2006. A couple of 12+ loss seasons put the writing on the wall, so Smith jumped to Minnesota before he could be pushed out.
Billy Gillispie followed Smith at Kentucky and preceded him at his current posting at Texas Tech. Gillispie’s antics in Lexington and Lubbock served very well to show fans that they could do worse than Orlando Smith… a lot worse.
Which begs the question: outside of Gillispiean context, is Tubby Smith a good coach? Is he what Texas Tech needs to survive the shark-infested Big 12?
I’m going to say yes, and I’m going to tell you why.
First of all, let’s look at the culture of Texas Tech over the past few years. The school has made national waves by hiring brilliant mavericks – Bobby Knight, Billy Gillispie and former football coach Mike Leach – and that’s been good and bad. Talented athletes have made their way to Lubbock and the school is a known quantity to recruits and fans. On the flipside, altercations between high-strung coaches and the players under their charge have added a powerful negative stigma to the headlines.
You’ve heard the saying “There’s no such thing as bad press,” but we might have to re-evaluate that statement from time to time. Tech’s reputation was damaged by those reports, which has affected the school’s ability to attract top talent of the coaching and athletic variety ever since.
From that vantage point, Tubby Smith looks like the safe choice. He wins, and he doesn’t cause controversy. He attracts positive attention. I mean, here I am writing about a program I tabbed to finish dead last in the Big 12 this season. That’s the Tubby effect.
And Tubby Smith wins games. His career mark of 511 wins to 226 losses (a .693 winning percentage) is somewhat distorted by that single national title, representing a career achievement that somehow detracts from every subsequent season in which he fails to approach the same lofty heights. He won at Tulsa, he won at Georgia and he won at Minnesota. He’ll win at Texas Tech, though not right away by any stretch of the imagination.
In fact, I don’t expect Tubby Smith to work miracles in Lubbock. I’ll be impressed if he gets the Red Raiders to play better than .500 ball in the rugged Big 12 by the 2016 season. But he’ll bring in good players, he’ll win a few games, and he’ll lend an invincible aura of even-handed, avuncular fairness to the proceedings. He’ll rehabilitate the Texas Tech name and prepare it to take the next step under an up-and-coming younger man; perhaps current Tech assistant coach Pooh Williamson, who played under Smith at Tulsa. Maybe someone else.
For now, however, Smith is the Texas Tech program’s physical therapist: He’ll supervise those first slow steps toward recovery, and make sure his team doesn’t face-plant. Soon, he’ll have the program walking and even running.
Tubby Smith represents a positive view of the near future in Lubbock. He can, and likely will, have the Red Raiders back in the Big Dance some day, and that’s a pretty good carrot for a program that hasn’t been there since 2007.
If he wears a suit and smiles like your granddad and nobody says anything interesting about him along the way, is that really such a bad thing?
Jul 27, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT
First career 3-pointer for Jones?
Jul 27, 2015, 8:12 PM EDT
Potentially four top-25 teams will be in the 2015 field.
Jul 27, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT
Scott averaged 15.7 points per game for Grambling during the 2013-14 season.
Jul 27, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
The former Big Ten Player of the Year (inaccurately) trolls Ohio State fans
Jul 27, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
It’s pretty obvious why people like Porter.
Jul 27, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT
Gabriel was the biggest stock riser for the month.
Jul 27, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT
Denzel Valentine and Taurean Waller-Prince also played well in stretches.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT
Stefan Moody was the leading scorer last season for Ole Miss.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT
Dick Tarrant also led Richmond to the 1988 Sweet 16.
Jul 27, 2015, 9:39 AM EDT
The hype surrounding Murray as a prospect has never been higher.
Jul 26, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT
Rashard Kelly averaged just 2.9 points per game last season. With Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton gone, he’ll need to do more in 2015-16.
Jul 26, 2015, 6:35 PM EDT
Villanova had been Jalen’s favorite for a long time according to his father Rick.
Jul 26, 2015, 2:10 PM EDT
Nichols picked Memphis over Virginia the first time around, and once the Tigers dropped their transfer restrictions many expected him to land in Charlottesville.
Jul 26, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Norvell hit a staggering 14 three-pointers…in one game.
Four-star Class of 2016 guard Zach Norvell scores 53 points, drops 14 3-pointers in Las Vegas (VIDEO)
Jul 26, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT
Chicago native Zach Norvell had one of the best games of the July live evaluation period on Saturday night by scoring 53 points and knocking down 14 3-pointers.
Jul 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The lesson here is don’t smack talk Devonte’ Graham if he’s your camp counselor.
Jul 25, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT
Ron Baker and Taurean Waller-Prince played well for the Americans.
Jul 25, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
UMass commit Unique McLean threw down a ridiculous dunk contest slam in front of a sea of people.
Jul 25, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
The Team Final rising senior tweeted out his list Friday morning.
Jul 25, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
A pair of Class of 2016 lead guards put together great games on Friday night while a two-sport athlete and the younger brother of an SEC guard also stood out.
- Former Memphis forward Austin Nichols transferring to Virginia 3
- Thursday Las Vegas Recap: Dennis Smith and Frank Jackson battle; Lonzo Ball quiets critics; Wendell Carter talks visit 0
- Wednesday Las Vegas Recap: Dennis Smith vs Lonzo Ball; Frank Jackson faces Kobi Simmons 0
- Kentucky-commit Jamal Murray scores 20 to headline Wednesday’s Pan-Am Games 0
- July Live Period Preview: Four story lines to follow from Las Vegas 0
- July Live Period Preview: The events to keep an eye on in Vegas this week 0
- Contender for No. 1 in 2016 class, Harry Giles, cuts list to five 10
- Drake committed an NCAA violation while at Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness (11)
- Maryland fans still hate Mike Krzyzewski (8)
- List for potential nicknames for North Dakota down to five (8)
- Nik Stauskas trolls Ohio State fans, claims Thad Matta didn’t know who he was (PHOTO) (6)
- Are college teams going to be available on NBA 2K? (3)