In the wake of former Memphis great Antonio Anderson’s recent comments regarding Tigers’ head coach Tubby Smith, many are questioning if Smith is the right fit for the basketball team.
I just don’t think he’s the right fit for the job at that school,” Anderson said to The Commercial Appeal this weekend. “To get kids to come to Memphis and embrace Memphis, you gotta have a coach who’s hard-nosed, gritty, knows the city, and you gotta get kids who are the same type of people.”
Smith did not help his case with his recent response to Anderson’s comments, when asked about them after Memphis’ loss to UCF.
“Well, maybe not,” Smith said. “A lot of people believe that. That’s always something that happens in this business. It’s what it is, and I’ve been there before. So we try to do the best job we can. We do it religiously. We do it consistently. It takes time.”
Saying “well maybe not” as a response to someone questioning your job is cause for concern, especially when you are getting paid $9.7 million over the next three years. Even if that was how Smith truly felt, he should not have said it to the media. That gives off the impression that he is unsure in his own abilities to turn the program around, or it is a poor attempt at being self-deprecating.
This is not the first time Smith has said questionable things to the media during his tenure at Memphis. After the Tigers’ loss to East Carolina earlier this month, he said his players needed “psychological help.” These are the same players who he brought in to the program. It came across as if he was throwing his players under the bus, the same guys who agreed to spend their next collegiate years under his tutelage. Again, even if this was what he felt, he should not have said it to the media. Those comments are not a way of motivating your team to play harder for you.
Smith also had questionable things to say in regards to Memphis’ lack of recruiting under his tenure. Local blue-chip prospects, such as Memphis East High School guard Alex Lomax and Southwind High School guard Mark Freeman, have bypassed Memphis in favor of other schools. When asked what the reason was behind the lack of recruiting, Smith gave an answer that was alarming.
“I don’t know what the big beef is about,” he said. “Competing in the world today for Memphis is a big difference than what it was 10 years ago.”
Saying that “I don’t know what the big beef is about” shows a lack of awareness on his part. The Tiger fan base is spoiled in a sense. They have high expectations when it comes to recruiting, as they should. For year the Tigers have traditionally been a top-25 program when it comes to recruiting. According to the Memphis Business Journal, Memphis had the 12th highest budget in Division 1 men’s basketball in 2016, at $11.2 million.
Smith’s quote indicates he does not quite grasp how important bringing in high-level talent is. Memphis is a city that is a hotbed for high school basketball, and he has not made enough of a concerted effort to make connections with local high school and AAU coaches, as evidence of him having one top-300 recruit in his upcoming class.
Finally, Smith does not understand how impatient the fan base is. This is now year two of his regime. With the Lawson drama, this season’s struggles, and the lack of recruiting, there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. He keeps talking about the programs turnaround needing time, but time is something that he simply does not have.
The Tigers are now 5-7 in conference play, and they have only played conference foes Houston and Southern Methodist once. One can make the case that this is due to only having two scholarship players from last year’s roster, but for comparisons sake, take a look at the Pacific University Tigers of the West Coast Conference. Damon Stoudamire’s Pacific team is currently 8-6 in conference play with seven scholarship players — not to mention they are a much smaller school with not nearly as much recruiting assets as Memphis is capable of having with the pool available in this city.
Rebuilds do not take time, they just take work.
Tubby talks to his assistant coaches during a game. The head coach is in his second season with the Tigers.