The Tubby Smith Debate is Over

Mercifully, the Tubby Smith debate is over.

As Smith approaches the end of his 2nd year at Memphis- another disappointing season – we can finally end the debate surrounding his tenure as coach at The University of Memphis.

Everyone should be able to agree on the following 3 points:

  1. Tubby Smith needs to upgrade the talent on his roster.
  2. Tubby Smith likely has to change his staff immediately after the season to make that happen.
  3. Tubby Smith has one more season to prove he can get Memphis back to the NCAA tournament.

It’s really that simple.

To argue that he should be fired now, as the end of his 2nd season approaches, is wrong.

And yes, I get that it’s hard to have hope after watching Memphis get pumped by East Carolina and Wichita State in back to back games, but it’s still wrong to suggest firing the coach now.

Even if Tubby Smith refuses to shake up his staff, even if Jeremiah Martin transfers, even if David Nickleberry transfers – the coach pretty much has to get one more year.

Tubby Smith has 3 years left on a contract that pays him $9.75m total over that time.

Memphis would have to pay Tubby Smith almost $10m over the next 3-years to not coach their basketball team.

I don’t think that’s happening.

So no, I don’t think Penny Hardaway will be coaching Memphis next year.

I think at a minimum, Kareem Brewton, Kyvon Davenport, Mike Parks, and Raynere Thornton will return to form the core of the 2018-2019 Memphis Tigers.

Jeremiah Martin, David Nickleberry, Victor Enoh and Jamal Johnson will have other options – but some or all of them could be back as well.

The best hope at this point is that this group finishes respectably, that Smith finally shakes up his staff this off-season and can somehow secure a few more talented pieces for 2018-2019.

For those of us who have been patient and have defended Smith, this optimistic scenario seems more distant than ever.

But either way, mercifully, the debate around Tubby Smith is fading away.

What has to happen from here is becoming more clear.

No Going Back

Though the debate regarding Smith is over, it doesn’t mean his critics are vindicated.

They will never be vindicated.

The folks that buried Smith after merely one year were wrong then and they’ll always be wrong for having mischaracterized the situation Smith inherited.

Smith’s eventual failure, if it comes to that, doesn’t justify their dishonesty at ignoring the structural issues surrounding the program Josh Pastner left behind.

A culture of transfers, quid pro quo recruiting arrangements, a team that had missed the tournament 2-years running.

Describing that as a promising inheritance was wrong then and it’s still wrong.

Reaching Out

Smith’s failure, should it come to that, also shouldn’t be placed entirely on not “reaching out” to the local AAU and High School Basketball Coaches. “Reaching out” seems like a euphemism for “taking care” of people.

A euphemism for getting “deals” done.

We know what’s going on here, I think.

Larry Finch got some local guys -but the “community” turned on him in the end.  He was unceremoniously dumped.

Josh Pastner’s story was much the same. Major local recruiting success didn’t lead to anything special on the court.

Local players and coaches turned on Pastner and he was forced out.

So I don’t blame Tubby Smith for not playing this game, BUT if the trajectory of his tenure doesn’t change he will ultimately be blamed for not having a viable alternative.

In other words, I don’t care if Smith passes on Memphis kids, but he better have good enough players from elsewhere and be able to stitch a team together that can reach the NCAA tournament.

At the moment, that clearly isn’t happening.

He has one more year to get that done.

But for now, at least the debate is over.