Tubby Smith has left Texas Tech to be the new head coach at Memphis. Link His departure feels oddly similar to that of another Tubby in that neither had the fortitude to succeed at Texas Tech for the long haul.
He came to Texas Tech to take over a program that was broken and in need of a steady hand following one of the darkest times in program history. Three years later, he bolted for greener pastures in the American Athletic Conference leaving Texas Tech fans to once again deal with turnover at the head coach position.
Of course we are taking about Tubby Smith. Unless, this is, we are talking about Tommy Tuberville.
The simlarities between the departures of former Texas Tech football head coach Tommy Tuberville and that of former basketball head coach Tubby Smith cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, both men came to Lubbock as highly regarded leaders who ultimately left the Red Raiders under cowardly circumstances.
Most people remember the story of Tommy Tuberville and the infamous steakhouse incident. In December of 2012, the then Texas Tech head football coach was reportedly hosting recruits at a Lubbock restaurant when he left the table to take a call never to return. The next day he was on his way to Cincinnati.
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According to Texas Tech Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt, Tubby Smith pulled a similarly questionable act on his way out the door to Memphis. Smith, who was unhappy with the state of the Texas Tech basketball facilities, was scheduled to meet with a group of boosters about raising funds to improve the shortcomings in the program’s practice gym among other luxuries he deemed necessary for success.
However, the man who in all likelihood initiated the meeting, never showed up. He did not have the integrity to tell Hocutt that he would not attend, he simply was a no-show.
"To quote Hocutt, “I tried to call to see when he was going to arrive and he had gone silent on me.”"
In the video below, Hocutt gives the details of Tubby Smith’s departure. Needless to say, the way the man who preached about unselfishness throughout his time in Lubbock failed to practice what he preached.
Now, it is safe to say that if Texas Tech ever again tries to hire anyone with a derivative of the name or nickname “Tubby” there will be rioting and pillaging in The Hub City.
The ways in which both Tubby Smith and Tommy Tuberville left Texas Tech are eerily similar and equally upsetting.
Neither man had the decency to tell his team in person of his decision to leave before the players had to hear of the news in the media. Both coached preached respect, family and doing the right thing but when those principals were required of them, each man failed to live up to the standards they expected of the athletes they coached.
Another similarity is that neither man really wanted to be in Lubbock. At the first opportunity each had to leave, they jumped on the first flight out of town never to look back.
In Tuberville’s case, Hocutt had told him that more was expected of the football team. In other words, his seat was getting warm. Still, the Texas Tech AD gave him another chance and instead of embracing the opportunity, he skipped town, literally in the middle of the night.
Though the city of Lubbock was worshiping at the alter of Orlando “Tubby” Smith, he also decided that Lubbock was not where he wanted to be. Despite being offered a $1 million raise that would have made him the third-highest paid coach in the Big 12, Smith left Lubbock to go to Memphis for an interview and never returned.
It is also ironic that both men took jobs in the American Athletic Conference, a non Power-5 conference. In Tuberville’s case, the move he made was a lateral move at best while the same argument could be made about Tubby Smith’s move considering that Memphis has been an irrelevant basketball program unless John Calipari was the head coach.
But what both Tubbys showed us is that neither had the gusto for the fight. Winning in the Big 12, especially at Texas Tech is not easy.
There are no pushovers like Tulane, Navy, South Florida or Tulsa on the Big 12 schedule. To win at Texas Tech, one has to have a dogged determination to defy the odds and prove everyone wrong.
Both Tuberville and Tubby Smith were ultimately more concerned about their professional reputations than about Texas Tech. Each man looked at what Texas Tech has to offer and decided that it was insufficient so he moved on, and that is his prerogative.
It is, however, important to note that each man was out of a job when Texas Tech gave him an opportunity. Then, each man realized he was not man enough for the job and skipped town.
The final similarity between Tuberville and Tubby Smith is that neither will ever know how truly special being a Red Raider is. Carpetbaggers or hired mercenaries don’t have the proper mindset to grasp what Texas Tech stands for.
That is because for 93 years, Texas Tech has thrived in the face of adversity, which takes commitment. It is precisely that commitment which makes being a Red Raider special. Nothing is handed to Texas Tech. Everything is earned, usually against the toughest of odds.
Many celebrated when Tuberville left because he complained about Lubbock from day one. Tubby Smith’s departure is much more shocking because for three years he talked about how much he loved West Texas and its hospitality (a word he used in a recent interview with Wreck ‘Em Red). But neither Tubby wanted to be here so good riddance.
Texas Tech will be just fine. Those with the proper gusto can accomplish greatness on the high plains.
Ask Tim Tadlock, Wes Kittley, Marsha Sharp, Spyke Dykes, Kliff Kingsbury, Tom Stone, Tim Siegel, Larry Hayes and Greg Sands what it means to be a Red Raider and they will give you a much different answer than Tubby Smith. That is because at Texas Tech, we do not run from challenges for easier paths and greener pastures.
Rather, we carve out our own path and follow in the footsteps of only those Red Raiders who have gone before us. It has been that way since 1923 and here’s hoping that the next basketball coach understands that it will be such forever.