Tubby Smith is a winner.
Anywhere the future Hall of Fame coach has been Smith has found success, just list them; Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota and now Texas Tech. Smith has won everywhere.
Smith has conquered the SEC, Big 10 and now aims at the Big 12, a conference he has never coached in.
In his previous 23 years as a head coach, his squad has broken into the AP Top 25 sixteen times, and nine of those years finished in the Top 25. If the upward trend continues at Tech, Smith could add a 17th time in 24 years that one of his team’s have broken into the Top 25.
Now at 63 years old, Smith is facing arguably his toughest challenge of his coaching career – turning around a Tech program that has been in the basement of the Big 12 Conference since 2008.
The 2007-2008 season marked the last time the Red Raiders posted more than six wins in Big 12 play, finishing with seven, including an 83-80 upset of then-No. 5 Texas under head coach Pat Knight, who took over for his father Bob Knight earlier that season.
Last season, in his first year with the Red Raiders, Smith orchestrated a six-win Big 12 slate, which for Texas Tech fan base meant a lot. The Red Raiders were somewhat relevant again, and no longer looked like the doormat of the Big 12.
Following a successful first season, Smith hit the recruiting trail garnering the 84th-best class in the nation. It was the first time Tech was in Top 100 since 2005, and the fifth best in the conference.
Smith added Justin Gray, Justin Jamison, Zach Smith, Norense Odiase and Devauntah Williams to the Red Raiders, which has made an immediate impact on the team.
Tech is off to a blazing hot 9-1 start. It’s the first time since 2009-2010 the Red Raiders have had such a successful start to a season. Williams is leading the way averaging 11.4 points per game, while Odiase has chipped in 9.4 points per game, which is second best on the team.
Also the Red Raiders are 9-0 at home inside the United Supermarkets Arena, which is the best start at home since that very same season.
The only loss for the Red Raiders this season came at the hands of LSU, which is No. 13 in RPI according to ESPN.com, and ranks third in the SEC behind #10 Arkansas and Kentucky, which is the unanimous No.1.
Outside of that, Tech has beaten Loyola, Missouri State, Northwestern State, Air Force, Auburn, Fresno State, Prairie View A&M, South Carolina State and most recently Arkansas Pine Bluff.
All but two wins, 46-44 against Auburn and 63-62 come-from-behind win versus Air Force, have been by double digits.
Not a bad start at all for the Red Raiders. But it’s what Tubby does – he wins.
Smith and the Red Raiders have two more games before the real tests start opening with No. 9 Texas, No. 22 West Virginia, No. 10 Kansas and Kansas State in Big 12 play at the beginning of January.
That will be when we really know what this group of Red Raiders is all about. If Tech can somehow upset one of their first Big 12 opponents, it would send a huge message to the rest of the conference.
Scary thing is, Tech can do it.
The Red Raiders have shown the potential, have been tested in non-conference play by facing huge deficits and coming back to win.
When Smith was hired at Texas Tech some questioned if it was smart to go with a coach, in his early 60’s, clearly on the back side of his career. Should the Red Raiders have gone with a young, up and coming coach, one that would bring new energy to the program?
In hindsight, Smith was definitely the right hire. Just like bringing Bobby Knight to Tech, bringing in another savvy veteran head coach with name notoriety such as Tubby Smith has worked, so far, to perfection.
Smith was another solid hire by Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt, and yet another Tech program that is beginning to gain more national attention. All the credit for the turnaround can be given to Smith and his coaching staff.
Red Raider basketball is on the rise, the Big 12 is going to be interesting this year and it will be neat to see what they can do in conference play the second time around with Smith at the helm.