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
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
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
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
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
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.”