There are 2 prevailing takes on the Keelon / Dedric / KJ Lawson situation brewing over at the University of Memphis.
Take # 1: Tubby Smith screwed up. He’s out of touch. He should have given Keelon what he wanted and kept the Lawsons. Without the Lawsons, the Tigers are going to be terrible. The sky is falling.
Take # 2: Screw the Lawsons. Keelon is exploiting his sons. Tubby should let them walk. Tubby has character, he shouldn’t compromise his values to ‘play ball.’
Spare me either of these takes, please.
Both have a hint of truth, but are ultimately distortions that lack nuance.
Let me acknowledge that if I had to lean towards one of these takes, I might favor the former. It would have been nice for this situation not to exist at all, and presumably it could have been avoided had Tubby Smith just made Keelon Lawson an assistant.
And I don’t buy the exploitation story either. An assistant’s job is to get players and nepotism is encouraged in college basketball. After all, the Memphis staff is very likely to include Tubby’s son, Saul.
On the other hand, shouldn’t we all keep in mind that 2 days before Tubby was hired Dedric Lawson announced that he was returning to school? Presumably, this left Smith with the impression that he had some flexibility in precisely how he was going to assemble his staff, even if Keelon had been assured a spot.
To that point, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has confirmed that there were assurances made to Keelon before Smith’s hire was announced. One can assume there was miscommunication, but shouldn’t Keelon understand that though his spot was guaranteed the new coach ought to decide who handles which specific roles?
I guess not.
And then the Lawsons went public with their discontent.
Which leaves Tubby little room to maneuver. At this point, if Smith hires Lawson, it might undermine his credibility within his program and within the community.
I’m not sure it will do that (undermine his credibility), but it might.
Which lends credence to Take # 2. Let em’ walk.
So my take is that I’ll be cool with whatever Tubby decides to do at this point.
If he finds a way to keep the Lawsons, that’s great. If he lets them walk, I’m cool with that too.
But if he chooses #2, he needs to quickly go find some other dudes.