Tubby Smith has accepted an offer to become the new head basketball coach at the University of Memphis, fresh off a 2015-2016 season in which he led Texas Tech to its first NCAA tournament appearance in nearly a decade.
This story has been gaining momentum for the last few days, beginning with reports over the weekend that Memphis was interested in hiring Tubby Smith. Many didn’t put much stock into it that, believing Tubby would finish out his career in Lubbock and continue to build on an impressive start to his three year tenure with Texas Tech.
After some eventually untrue rumors surfaced on Monday, rumors with greater validity and greater magnitude popped up again Wednesday. USA Today and Bleacher Report, among others, claimed Tubby Smith was not only Memphis’ top target for the job, but that he was interviewing for the position in Memphis and could agree to an offer as soon as Wednesday afternoon.
Well, that turned out to be pretty close to what happened. Tubby Smith is officially headed to Memphis, per multiple media reports, after sleeping on it overnight. Many Red Raider fans seemed surprised that he would leave what he has coming back next season (core group of players returning, solid chance to make it back to the NCAA tournament, etc.) and start all over at yet another school this late in his career. But it doesn't have to make sense to you or me, just the man actually making the decision.
It appears Texas Tech didn't let him go without a fight, though. There were reported contract negotiations in which Texas Tech was willing to increase Tubby's salary by $1 million.
Regardless of whether the reasons for his departure were financial or otherwise, I wish Tubby Smith all the best in his future endeavors. This is certainly a blow for the Texas Tech program, but hopefully Tubby has built a foundation for long term success. He left the program better than he found it (Texas Tech's last coach named "Tub" can't say that), and was always a highly respected class act off the court as well.
The next step for Texas Tech basketball is to hire a new head coach, and many names have already floated around.
Former Texas Tech assistant coach Chris Beard, who just agreed to terms to become UNLV’s head coach, would have seemed like a reasonably good fit considering his success last season as Arkansas-Little Rock’s head coach and his past experience in Lubbock. Obviously it would be unorthodox for a coach to leave a school a few days after arriving there, but if Beard's buyout is doable and he wants to be in Lubbock, you never know.
Whoever Tubby’s successor is will inherit a program on the rise with considerable talent, assuming players don’t transfer given their former coach’s departure. If Kirby Hocutt can make a hire anywhere near as good as the Tubby Smith hire was, Texas Tech basketball should be in good shape.
Best of luck, Tubby, and thank you for three good years. We wish it could have lasted for a few more, but thanks to you we should be in good hands.