Much thanks to GoAUpher of The Daily Gopher for answering some questions about Texas Tech's newest head coach, Tubby Smith. Go ahead and click on the link for TDG for helping us out, especially when Minnesota hired their own basketball coach and also had to write about that. Much thanks again.
First things first, congrats on your new basketball coach, Richard Pitino. Next, there is no denying the fact men's Texas Tech basketball program is in a really bad way right now. Texas Tech has won 19 games over the past two years combined. In KenPom's final season ratings, Texas Tech was 247th while Minnesota was 21st. There is a significant difference in the type of basketball being played at Texas Tech and Minnesota. With that caveat out of the way, what can Texas Tech fans be optimistic about in regards to hiring Tubby Smith?
GoAUpher: First things first, he's not a jerk. I have no idea if that is important to your fanbase or not, but it's extremely unlikely that you'll end up hating the guy on a personal level. He'll immediately give your program some name recognition and a small bump in status, as the national writers love him and disliked the Minnesota firing immensely. Based on what we saw at Minnesota when Tubby came in after Monson, I'd expect the team to improve (if not overachieve) early under Tubby as well.
Also at The Daily Gopher, you somewhat praised Smith for turning things around and that Minnesota fans were maybe a bit harsh on Smith. Talk a bit about the two best things that Smith did and the two things that you wish he had done better.
GoAUpher: I think the most important thing he did was get the program on a stable footing. Not all Minnesota fans will agree with me on this, but I think Tubby was unlikely to tank as the coach of Minnesota. I think he had hit his ceiling in terms of success, but I think he was more likely to deliver consistent mediocrity (which included consistent frustrations and failings) than disaster moving forward. The second thing he did was build excitement for the program. This waned as time went on of course, but following the Clem Haskins scandal and the Monson years a rise in excitement was important for the program and fanbase.
As for what he could have done better? Anything that would have helped his teams avoid their two biggest failings: stagnant offense and consistent end of season collapses in the Big Ten regular season. The honorable mention would be figure out how to teach his teams to properly defeat a zone defense (though I suppose this falls under stagnant offense). As Tubby's tenure progressed, it became clear that Gopher fans were going to need to adjust to the fact that the team would not run exciting, efficient, or effective offensive sets once they reached the Big Ten season. Gopher fans also came to anticipate and expect a late season swoon in conference play. In previous years it could be at least partially explained by injury, transfer, or some other sort of trouble that took a key player off the roster. But this season's downfall made it clear that the issue likely went beyond outside factors.
What can Texas Tech fans look forward to in terms of overall style of play on both offense and defense?
GoAUpher: On the plus side you can expect your teams to play pretty solid defense. Not outstanding or world beating defense, but decent defense. With that said, the Gophers did struggle to defend the 3 consistently for a number of seasons in a row.
Offensively...keep your expectations low. Tubby's recent teams seemed to do best when playing in transition or when penetrating. Sadly, they did not do either of these nearly enough. Instead what they did was a lot of standing, slow passes around the perimeter, avoidance of/poor execution of entry passes to the post, and settling for less than optimal jump shots.
One of the big questions regarding Smith at Texas Tech is that he doesn't really have that regional familiarity in terms of recruiting. Smith didn't seem to have that at Minnesota before he arrived. How would you assess Smith's recruiting ability while at Minnesota?
GoAUpher: I'd say average overall. He came in and actually put up some pretty strong results with his first 2 classes, especially the second class in 2009. Unfortunately many of the best players from those classes either never reached what was thought to be their full potential (e.g. Ralph Sampson) or didn't stay with the program (e.g. Justin Cobbs, Royce White, etc). His later classes included some good players (Andre Hollins springs to mind) but no elite level prospects like Royce White. More often than not he lost out in his head to head battles for the best prospects when he had to recruit against the "big name" schools and coaches.
As a result I don't think he was a bad recruiter but he certainly wasn't an elite recruiter. I'm not familiar with how recruiting has gone for you recently, but if it has been sub-optimal then I'd expect Tubby to improve it. If it's been average then I'd expect him to maintain that level at a minimum and improve upon in select years.
I don't think regional familiarity is a must have for Tubby as he is clearly comfortable looking nationally for recruits. His ability to build that familiarity and those relationships might determine the ceiling for his recruiting at Texas Tech though.