After a false alarm yesterday afternoon, although it appeared that everything was essentially agreed upon, late last night Texas Tech confirmed that former Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith will be Texas Tech's 16th next head basketball coach. A press conference is set for 2:00 pm and you can consider this your open thread.
As far as Smith is concerned, there has been much fan consternation over whether to hire Smith or to retain interim head coach Chris Walker, who led this Texas Tech team after Texas Tech and Billy Clyde Gillispie parted ways. There is the thought that Walker could be retained as an assistant coach, but that might be a difficult situation as you might have some players listening to Walker rather than Smith. I could see how that might be problematic. Walker's best attribute is his overall attribute and his ability to recruit, while Smith is thought of a veteran coach that has won twenty or more games in 19 of his 22 seasons, although many fans see Smith as being "retread".
I'm not upset at this hiring. This is not a ringing endorsement. What would have upset me would have been hiring a guy like Hinson or McClain. With that being said, it was very disconcerting that a handful of candidates passed on the Texas Tech job and it was, at least for me, a wake up call as to the level that the men's basketball program had sunk. I mentioned this list yesterday, but the following coaches passed on this job: New Mexico's Steve Alford, Indiana's assistant coach Steve McClain, New Mexico State's Marvin Menzies, Oral Roberts' Scott Sutton, Southern Illinois' Barry Hinson, Louisiana Tech's Michael White and Southern Mississippi's Donnie Tyndall. That's a long list of candidates to run through and be told no.
The hiring of Smith doesn't have the pizazz that the athletic program had in hiring Kliff Kingsbury to be the head coach and it appears that there are two different philosophies in the hiring of Smith. Smith is qualified, maybe more qualified that I could have imagined.
Nationally, it seems that some believe that this is a positive hire for Texas Tech in that Smith makes basketball programs relevant, something that Texas Tech basketball has not been in quite some time. I do respect the opinions of ESPN's Andy Katz and he wrote about Texas Tech hiring Smith this morning:
Tubby Smith's decision to go to Texas Tech should go down as one of the most surprising recent moves. I was convinced Smith would either take some time off after he was fired at Minnesota or maybe go back to the mid-Atlantic area to coach -- even if it were at a lower level. Smith can coach at any spot. But I wasn't sure he would want to take on another rebuild. Texas Tech will always have a hard climb in men's basketball in the Big 12. The Red Raiders have facilities but drawing has been an issue and the program hasn't resonated as much within the state. Texas Tech hasn't shied away from brand names with Bob Knight and now Smith. Smith has had to face plenty of challenges in his career. Clearly, he isn't ducking another chance at a point when he could have sought a softer landing. He'll need to ensure he's got a solid staff that is as energized for this tall task as much as he must be to take on getting the Red Raiders out the bottom of the Big 12.
I think it's interesting that Katz is asking why Smith would take such a big rebuilding job in Texas Tech, while a large portion of the Texas Tech fanbase, is asking why Texas Tech would choose Smith. Katz makes it clear, and I agree, that Texas Tech is a difficult place to win right now.
I do think that this is the safest hire that Texas Tech could have made. I'm almost always cautiously optimistic and I will give any coach that Texas Tech hires an opportunity to prove any doubts that I might have wrong. It is much easier for me to get through life that way. There's no doubt that I do have some preconceived notions about Smith, but I also had developed some criticisms of Walker as well. Had either of them been hired I was and am willing to give each of them a chance and do what they need to do.
I do know one thing, I am very ready for Texas Tech basketball to be relevant again, not a punchline