Memphis hires Tubby Smith as Tigers’ new basketball coach

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis is turning to Tubby Smith to get the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament, something the veteran coach already has done at five other schools.

Smith shares those goals.

And he has plans for much more.

“The sky’s the limit for this program,” Smith said Thursday at his introductory press conference. “We want to take it to championship-caliber play.”

Memphis introduced Smith as the Tigers’ new coach less than a week after Georgia Tech hired away Josh Pastner. The move from the 38-year-old Pastner — who arrived at Memphis as a head coaching newcomer — to the 64-year-old Smith represents a major change from an experience standpoint.

University president M. David Rudd called Smith the most accomplished coach ever hired by Memphis.

“It is entirely about fit,” Rudd said. “It’s about fit for our program, fit for our university and fit for the city. Tubby Smith is precisely the right coach at the right time for the University of Memphis.”

Memphis lured Smith away from Texas Tech with a five-year contract for $15.45 million, including $2.8 million next season, $2.9 million for 2017-18 and $3.25 million each of the last three seasons.

Smith and Lon Kruger are the only two coaches to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament. Smith most recently got there with Texas Tech, which went 19-13 and earned an NCAA bid this season in his third year on the job.

With a career record of 557-276, Smith won the national title with Kentucky in 1998. He also has worked at Tulsa, Georgia and Minnesota during a head coaching career that began in 1991.

Smith said he didn’t decide to take the Memphis job until Thursday morning.

“I wasn’t looking for a job,” Smith said. “But when you hear the University of Memphis Tigers, you know the tradition and you know the success they’ve had.”

He replaces Pastner, who went 167-63 with four NCAA Tournament berths in seven seasons at Memphis. Pastner was hired when John Calipari left for Kentucky in April 2009.

Although Pastner led Memphis to four straight NCAA appearances from 2011-14, the Tigers failed to earn an NCAA bid the last two seasons while going a combined 37-29. Memphis went 19-15 this season and lost to Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference tournament final.

“It’s not so much what we’re here to prove,” Smith said. “It is what we are here to improve. The previous coach, he did a pretty good job.”

Memphis’ recent struggles led to disenchantment with Pastner. The Tigers’ announced home attendance dropped from more than 16,000 during Memphis’ last NCAA Tournament season of 2013-14 to 11,812 this season.

Last month, Rudd and athletic director Tom Bowen issued a statement saying the men’s basketball program “operates in a manner consistent with the core values of our university and community but has fallen short in our on-court performance the last two years.” Rudd and Bowen indicated in that statement they planned to keep Pastner next season, but the coach left for Georgia Tech three weeks later.



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