Smith: Building a Successful Program is Goal

Smith: Building a Successful Program is Goal

On Tuesday new Texas Tech men's basketball coach Tubby Smith had many goals for his tenure and one was returning Red Raider basketball to being a contender.

In his freshman season at High Point University, Tubby Smith picked up the phone and called his father saying nobody liked him.

Smith's father proceeded to ask a series of questions, are they still paying for your education, do you still have a place to live and are they still feeding you?

The young Smith's answer to all three questions was yes.

His father's answer to this was you are going to stay because you're not coming back here where I have 16 other hungry mouths to feed, if you come back you're going to the Army.

Smith ended up staying and being the only player from his recruiting class to graduate in 1973.

"So sometimes you have to just last," Smith said about his experience as a player when facing tough situations. "Sometimes you have to just stay the course, and that takes a lot of ‑‑ that takes a tough kid, a tough person to overcome all those obstacles, all the different people that you have to go through, three or four different coaches.

"It's not easy because every one of them have a different philosophy, a different system, but if you believe in yourself and you're secure in who you are and you have a parent to tell you you'd better stick it out, then you can make it.  You can do anything your mind can believe, and you can get it done."

That story is the one of many new Texas Tech head basketball coach Tubby Smith referred to during his introductory press conference on Tuesday afternoon inside the United Spirit Arena.

Smith becomes the fourth head coach of the program in as many years and uses the story about his time at High Point University as an example to his current players, considering Smith himself went through three coaching changes in his playing career.

The new leader of Red Raider basketball is planning on staying around for at least a few seasons, inking a six-year deal, and wanting to take the program back to national prominence.

Smith's résumé is proof enough of his track record of getting programs into the national spotlight, including stops at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and most recently Minnesota.

His success was one of the many reasons Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt to into consideration when deciding to pull the trigger on hiring the 61-year-old coach and bringing him to Tech.

"We have a head coach who has allowed us to check off all the criteria that I mentioned a few moments ago," he said. "We have a leader and a head coach who has served for 22 years as head coach in college basketball, and out of those 22 years he has been to the NCAA Tournament 17 times. And we have a head coach who went to the NCAA Tournament this year and advanced in the NCAA Tournament."

In his 22-year career Smith has taken teams not just to the doorstep of the big dance, but have gotten to cut down the nets once at the end of it all.

In the 1997-1998 season at Kentucky, his first at the helm of the Wildcat program, Smith took them to the Final Four and won a National Championship.

His next nine seasons did not result in cutting down the nets, but three trips to the Elite Eight and two to the Sweet Sixteen were apart of a stretch of 14-consecutive trips to the tourney, including two trips each with both Tulsa and Georgia, respectively.

"We hope to bring the same type of success to Texas Tech through our recruiting," Smith said, "through our coaching, and I'm sure we can do that with the support of the administration, the support of the faculty, the students, and the alumni and the fans and community."

Smith walks into a program that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since the 2006-2007 season, when legendary head coach Bob Knight was leading the Red Raiders.

The 2006-2007 season also marked the last time a Red Raider basketball team has won at least 20 games in a season.

Twenty win seasons have become almost a regular occurrence for Smith as a head coach considering in his 22-year career, 19 of those have ended with his teams finishing north of the 20-win mark, and also two where his teams finished with more than 30 wins.

Of course one of the questions among the many that were directed towards Smith during his introductory press conference was, how long will it take to you to build Tech into a contender?

"That's a trick question," Smith said while laughing and smiling. "You know what, we're just going to give it our best effort.  There's no timetable.  We expect it to happen immediately, but we know the challenges that are involved.  But if these young men that we have in the program and the things I've heard about them as far as their heart and their courage and their work ethic, then I think we're going to be very competitive immediately."

The closest a Red Raider team, in the past six years, has gotten to be a contender for a spot in the NCAA Tournament came in the 2009-2010 season when Pat Knight was in charge and the Red Raiders won 19 games.

Tech would eventually not make it into the NCAA Tournament but made a run in the NIT getting to the quarterfinal game.

"It's my goal to build this program into one of the top programs, not just in the Big 12 but in the country, and that's not going to be easy," Smith said. "It's going to be hard work, and we know that the sacrifices and the process of rebuilding a program is not easy.  We've done it a few places, and I think that the identity and the talent that we have here, we have a good start."

The talent that is in place for Smith is pretty much the same team that was on the floor this past season minus senior Ty Nurse, who graduated, and Trency Jackson, who transferred.

As of right now, with the current roster, Smith will have leading scorer and rebounder Jaye Crockett, who averaged 12.1 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game, back for his senior season.

Smith also returns a pair of players that were on the verge of averaging double digits in scoring as Jordan Tolbert and Josh Gray, who averaging 9.8 and 9.6 points per game, respectively, are still set to be on next season's roster.

With the players that are coming back and the ones that Smith will add in the coming weeks, he wants the team to have an identity and made that very clear on Tuesday afternoon.

"When you see the Red Raiders play, you're going to see a team that plays hard, that plays smart, and they're going to play together," Smith said. "You're going to see a team that rebounds, and you're going to see a team that likes to get up and down the court because my teams have done that in the past.  So that's the kind of energy and the type of style we plan to employ, one that's a winning style."

 

 

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