By BETSY BLANEY &
LUBBOCK, Texas — Tubby Smith is headed to Texas Tech to try to turn around another wayward program.
Smith agreed to terms Monday with Texas Tech to be its next coach, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because an official announcement has not been made. Athletic department spokesman Blayne Beal said there was no agreement in place.
Interim coach Chris Walker went 11-20 this season and 3-15 in Big 12 play as the program tried to recover from Billy Gillispie’s volatile one-year tenure, which ended when he resigned in September.
Smith was fired by Minnesota last week after six seasons. He led them to three NCAA tournaments and this year delivered the program’s first tourney win — over sixth-seeded UCLA — since 1997. He went 124-81 (.610), winning 20 games five times. But he never finished higher than sixth in the Big Ten, going just 46-62 in conference play, and Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague ousted him.
In all, Smith is 511-226 (.693) in 22 seasons and his teams have won 20-plus games 19 times.
He would be the fourth person to lead Texas Tech in as many seasons
The 61-year-old Smith could be just what Texas Tech needs. The AP Coach of the Year in 2003, Smith has a reputation as a program builder who doesn’t cut corners. His teams have been clean and doing things the right way could go a long way toward bringing name recognition to the school not historically on the college basketball map and after the past two seasons’ difficulties.
The Red Raiders last went to the NCAA tournament in 2007, Bob Knight’s final full season in Lubbock.
Two years ago, Texas Tech fans pinned their hopes on Gillispie after he’d turned around two other flagging programs in the state, UTEP and Texas A&M.
Instead, he more resembled the guy who was fired at Kentucky, a hard-driving coach who had a difficult time connecting with the players he inherited. Several players from Gillispie’s inaugural and lone season in West Texas left the program and complained to athletic director Kirby Hocutt about how Gillispie treated them.
There were some secondary NCAA violations for exceeding practice times and it all led to the Red Raiders finishing 8-23 and winning just one Big 12 game in 2011-12, the program’s worst season since 1990-91.
Gillispie stepped down in September, citing health reasons after two stays in the hospital. Walker, an assistant at several schools for 17 years, led Texas Tech to an improved season but the Houston native’s lack of experience as a head coach likely worked against him.
Smith won a national title and five Southeastern Conference championships with Kentucky before the demanding Wildcat faithful pushed him to leave for Minnesota in 2007. Smith, who was replaced at Kentucky by Gillispie, has also taken Tulsa and Georgia to the round of 16.
Now he’ll try to do it one more time at Texas Tech, where he now succeeds Gillispie.