Back in February of 2016, the Texas Tech basketball team scored one of the biggest wins of the Tubby Smith era by taking down No. 3 Oklahoma.
The Tubby Smith era of Texas Tech basketball is a tough one to label because of how it ended. It was as if the legendary head coach erased all the good he had done over the previous three seasons when he took the job at Memphis without giving Kirby Hocutt a chance to entice him to stay.
That was truly disappointing given that Smith had just taken the program to its first NCAA Tournament in nine years and had most of his key players set to return. That group included Keenan Evans, Zach Smith, Norense Odiase, and Justin Gray, the foursome that would form the foundation of Tech’s Elite Eight run two seasons later.
Smith brought that recruiting class to town and it will forever be remembered as the one that helped turn the program around after nearly a decade of obscurity. That’s why Red Raider fans were puzzled by the head coach’s decision to head to a school with a smaller budget and in a lesser conference.
But as we know, everything worked out wonderfully in Lubbock. Hocutt made the hire of his career and plucked Chris Beard out of Las Vegas after less than a month as head coach at UNLV.
The rest is Red Raider history. But the same fortune did not follow Smith to Memphis.
After signing a five-year, $14.5 million contract with the Tigers, the man who had taken five different programs to the NCAA Tournament lasted just two seasons in the Home of the Blues. Though he had two winning seasons, including a 21-win year in 2017-18, he never took the Tigers to the Big Dance and was fired that offseason.
After he left town, some even said that he had made a mess of the program after six players transferred that offseason leaving only two players set to return for the next year. Meanwhile, Tech was on the verge of a run to the National Title Game.
It’s tough to be too bitter towards Tubby Smith. He is a kind man, a brilliant basketball mind, and a great role model for his players. What’s more, his departure was the best outcome for the Red Raider program.
Still, when we think of his run in Lubbock, we will often think most about the abrupt and puzzling way it ended. But for today, let’s look back at one of the best moments he gave us when he authored an upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in Lubbock.