I must admit, when Tubby Smith was linked with the University of Memphis menâ€™s basketball coaching opening, I wasnâ€™t terribly excited.
While Smith won a national championship and made four Elite Eights with the Kentucky Wildcats, his two stops after failed to match his success there.
Of course, Minnesota and Texas Tech are incredibly hard places to succeed. Richard Pitino, who replaced Smith after the Golden Gophers fired him in 2013, has failed to make the NCAA tournament in his first three seasons as coach. And at Texas Tech, Smith was the first coach to make the NCAA tournament since the legendary Bob Knight.
However, once I saw the reaction Texas Tech fans had on Twitter Wednesday following Smithâ€™s potential departure, I began to rethink my thoughts on his potential arrival to the Bluff City.
After all, he is the first coach Memphis has hired who has won a national championship. He has the best resume of any coach the Tigers have ever hired, including John Calipari. When U of M President M. David Rudd said the hiring of Smith on Thursday was historic, he was 100 percent correct.
Yes, Smithâ€™s teams at Minnesota and Texas Tech have missed the postseason altogether in three of the past six seasons, and only once has one advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament (Minnesota 2013).
Although it is important to point out two of those three missed postseason appearances were at Texas Tech, and in his third season eventually brought the Red Raiders back to the NCAA tournament. Though they lost in the first round and finished 19-13, Smith won the Big 12 Coach of the Year Award and National Coach of the Year. Those are not awards they hand out to just any coach.
Most importantly, he fits one of the key criterions for being the next coach of the Tigers. Smith is an upgrade over previous coach Josh Pastner. While Pastnerâ€™s first five seasons at coach of the Tigers were relatively successful, Smithâ€™s resume is far better.
This leads to my next point about Smithâ€™s age. I was initially concerned given he is 64-years-old, but he has the experience and the resume to show he will eventually win at Memphis. Plus he just rebuilt Texas Tech essentially from scratch to an NCAA tournament team in three seasons, as I mentioned earlier.
Now Smith still has quite a job on his hands. Not to the level of rebuilding Texas Tech, but the U of M basketball program is one in need of a rebuild.
Having Dedric Lawson return to school will help, but recruiting, which has at times been an Achillesâ€™ heel for Smith, will be crucial. The hiring of Pooh Williamson and retaining Keelon Lawson are two of the most important moves made by Smith to this point.
Of course, Smith has to win the fans back and the only to do that is by winning. I have no doubt Memphis will win under Smith. To what level will be determined. But the U of M gave Smith a five-year, $15.45 million contract, so the expectations will be similar as they were under Pastner. Returning to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2009 at some point in Smithâ€™s tenure should be the goal.
While I didnâ€™t like the hire a week ago, Iâ€™ve come around to the idea of Smith as Memphis head coach. Tubby time has finally arrived.
University of Memphis coach Tubby Smith at his introductory press conference Thursday. Smith is the first coach Memphis has hired who has won a national championship.Â