Big 12 basketball just got a little better Tuesday.
In what has to be considered a home run hire by the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Tubby Smith was announced as the new men’s basketball coach in Lubbock. Smith, who has a record of 511-226 (.693) in 22 years years as a head coach, was fired last week by the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Smith has coached at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, and Minnesota. He won a national championship in 1997 while at Kentucky. In 2003, while still with the Wildcats, he won the AP Coach of the Year.
The Red Raider Athletic Director, Kirby Hocutt, decided not to continue with Chris Walker, who took over on an interim basis when Billy Gillispie stepped down earlier in the season. Walker seemed like a good coach whose players played hard at all times, but Texas Tech needed a bigger name to keep the program competitive in a talented and deep conference. Tubby Smith will bring name recognition and star power to West Texas. Smith is also know for his squeaky clean programs, which is always an important factor. The 61-year old Smith’s contract is for 8 years at $1.8 million a year.
One has to wonder what Minnesota was thinking. Smith had led the Golden Gophers to three NCAA Tournaments in his 6 years there. He won 61% percent of his games there, going 124-81. Minnesota evidently doesn’t realize who they are, firing a coach as successful as Smith, in a program such as the Golden Gopher’s. Minnesota’s loss is Texas Tech’s gain.
Looking at the bigger picture as far as the Big 12 Conference is concerned, Smith is just another fine, accomplished basketball coach is a great basketball league. The league’s bottom two programs, Tech and TCU, are led by Smith and Trent Johnson, and you can expect an immediate improvement in talent and athletic ability in those two programs. The bottom schools of this league are going to improve greatly very soon, which will only help the league overall. Texas Tech fans should be happy. The Red Raiders just got better.
In other Big 12 news, the Baylor Bears, who seemed to underachieve all season, have peaked late. The Bears will play in the NIT finals. Pierre Jackson has been fantastic as he scored 24 points and had 10 assists in the semi-final game against BYU.