Tubby Smith

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

NCAA rule change that impacts Memphis coaching staff now official

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One of the more popular topics in college basketball in recent weeks was the status of Memphis assistant coach Keelon Lawson and sons Dedric and K.J. in the aftermath of the school hiring Tubby Smith. Would Smith keep the elder Lawson on staff as an assistant, thus in all likelihood ensuring that Dedric and K.J. would return as well? Would he let go or attempt to reassign Keelon, and as a result risk losing two players from an already limited roster?

Ultimately Smith decided to reassign Keelon to a non-coaching position, making him director of player development. And with the NCAA having a rule that those with a connection to a prospective student-athlete had to serve in a coaching capacity for the player’s first two seasons, the question was whether or not Memphis would need a waiver to pull off the move.

Luckily for Memphis the NCAA was looking into an alteration of the rule, and on Thursday with the NCAA not taking action on Proposal 2015-30 the change became official.

Under the new rule a coach’s two years on staff would begin immediately upon his arrival. In the case of Lawson this is key as he spent a year on former Memphis head coach Josh Pastner’s staff before Dedric and K.J. enrolled. With the two-year requirement ruled to be served under the new proposal, Smith could reassign Keelon Lawson without having to ask the NCAA for a waiver.

The next step as far as Memphis is concerned is Dedric, who ultimately entered his name into the NBA Draft pool (without an agent), withdrawing and returning to school for his sophomore season. As a freshman Dedric was the best freshman in the American Athletic Conference, averaging 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers. DraftExpress.com currently ranks him 28th amongst college freshmen, which makes him no sure thing to be drafted should he decide to stay in the draft.

At the very least the next month should result in Dedric receiving constructive feedback from NBA scouts and executives that he can use to improve next season.

K.J. played in just ten games last season due to a lingering Achilles tendon issue, averaging 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. The hope is that K.J. will be granted a medical redshirt for last season, thus preserving a year of eligibility.

Memphis to hire Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith

Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith watches during practice for a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Texas Tech pays Butler on Thursday. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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Just about a week after Josh Pastner made the decision to move from Memphis to Georgia Tech to take its head coaching position, Memphis has found the next leader of its program.

As first reported by CBSSports.com, Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith has agreed to become the next head coach at Memphis.

Smith’s move comes after three years in Lubbock, with the Red Raiders reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 this past season. Smith has led five programs to the NCAA tournament as a head coach, and in 1998 won a national title at Kentucky.

He arrives in Memphis with some talent to work with, led by the American Athletic Conference’s top freshman in forward Dedric Lawson. Lawson’s brother K.J., who missed most of this season due to injury, will be back in the fold as well. But there are some holes to fill on the roster, most notably in the backcourt as four seniors have moved on and Avery Woodson decided to transfer. The first open evaluation period of the spring begins Friday, so getting this move done before then was important for Memphis from a recruiting standpoint.

Under Pastner Memphis reached the NCAA tournament four times, with the most recent trip coming in 2014. But they won just two games in those four trips, failing to get out of the first weekend. That’s the task for Smith, who moves to a league that while solid at the top does not have the depth that the Big 12 boasted. That should make the process of contending for (and winning) conference titles more manageable that it would have been had he remained in Lubbock.

Texas Tech pulls off another upset, beating No. 3 Oklahoma

Texas Tech's Toddrick Gotcher tries to pass the ball around Oklahoma's Buddy Hield during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)
AP Photo/Brad Tollefson
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After picking up wins over two ranked teams in Iowa State and Baylor, Texas Tech entered Wednesday’s game against No. 3 Oklahoma in search of another quality win for its résumé. Sure enough Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders pulled it off, beating the Sooners 65-63 despite Oklahoma having two shots at the game-tying basket in the final seconds. Aaron Ross scored 17 points and Keenan Evans 14 for Texas Tech, but the key for them was what they were able to do defensively.

Oklahoma was unable to get out in transition for much of the night, and in the half-court they struggled to find the clean looks they’ve taken advantage of for most of this season. The Sooners shot 38.2 percent from the field and 6-for-23 from three, and Buddy Hield struggled as well.

Hield scored ten points in the first five minutes of the game. From that point on he managed to score just six, with the Red Raiders pestering him all night long. The national Player of the Year candidate began to press some as a result, leading to his turning the ball over five times. Add in Isaiah Cousins scoring ten points on 3-for-9 shooting and Ryan Spangler going for just five on 2-for-7 from the field, and Oklahoma didn’t have the offensive production it needed to win outside of Jordan Woodard’s 25-point effort.

Within a week’s time Texas Tech has gone from being a team well out of the NCAA tournament picture to one that has three quality wins many other bubble teams can’t match. Even with Toddrick Gotcher (who may have traveled in the final seconds) and Devaughntah Williams struggling offensively, Texas Tech went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma thanks to the contributions of others. Evans has been a much-improved player over the last four games, and forward Zach Smith added ten points and nine rebounds as he and Ross outplayed the Oklahoma front court.

As a result Texas Tech is beginning to add wins that will enhance a résumé that already looks good from a computer standpoint. The finish to the season won’t be easy, as the Red Raiders still have games on the road against No. 2 Kansas and No. 10 West Virginia to navigate.

That certainly looks daunting, but so did the three-game stretch Texas Tech just took on. And with the confidence that Tubby Smith’s team is playing with, anything is possible for the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech loses starting big man Odiase for up to 6 weeks

Baylor forward Rico Gathers, far left, and Baylor guard Lester Medford, center left, struggle with Texas Tech center Norense Odiase for possession in the first period during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Lubbock, Texas. (Mark Rogers/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Mark Rogers/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)
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Texas Tech took a huge blow to its interior depth this week as head coach Tubby Smith confirmed on his radio show that starting big man Norense Odiase is expected to miss the next six weeks with a broken bone in his foot.

The 6-foot-9 Odiase broke his fourth metatarsal in a win over TCU this week and he is expected to spend the next three weeks in a cast before being reevaluated. Starting in all 17 games for the Red Raiders this season, Odiase averaged 9 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest in 19.5 minutes per game. Although he doesn’t put up huge numbers, Odiase has been a steady interior presence for a Texas Tech team that doesn’t have much depth up front.

Without Odiase in the lineup, head coach Tubby Smith will likely rely on reserves like junior forward Matt Temple or other options that have seen more regular rotation minutes like sophomore forward Zach Smith and junior forward Aaron Ross.

Texas Tech sits at 12-5 and is hoping for some upsets in Big 12 play to spring an NCAA tournament bid, this is not a good sign of the Red Raiders making that postseason run happen.

Minority coaches push for NCAA to adopt a Rooney Rule

John Thompson III
Associated Press
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A group representing minority coaches is pushing the NCAA to adopt a rule that would require member institutions to interview a candidate of color for all head coaching and leadership vacancies.

The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development is joining longtime equality crusader Richard Lapchick in lobbying for an “Eddie Robinson Rule,” which would be college athletics’ version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

The group says such a rule would “address the negligent hiring practices which consistently exclude racial and ethnic minority coaches and administrators from positions of leadership in intercollegiate athletics.”

“It’s not about supply anymore,” Merritt Norvell, NAFCED’s executive director, said Friday. “There are plenty of qualified racial and ethnic minority coaches. It’s about the hiring process, which has historically and systematically excluded minority coaches by denying them an opportunity to compete in the process.”

NAFCED was formed last year to combat the dwindling numbers of minority coaches in college sports after the once powerful Black Coaches Association faded. Prominent members include Texas Tech basketball coach Tubby Smith, Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III and Texas coach Shaka Smart.

Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida released an annual study before the college football season that reported 87.5 percent of the 128 head football coaches in the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision were white. That includes all four teams that made it to the playoff – Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Michigan State.

Further, nearly 80 percent of college presidents and athletic directors at FBS schools are white males.

Lapchick has long advocated that the NCAA adopt a rule similar to the NFL, and he named it after Robinson, the revered coach at Grambling State who died in 2007. He called the endorsement from NAFCED “an enormous boost” that he hopes will help the proposal gain traction.

“I think what has been lacking is a forceful group of prominent sports leaders backing this,” Lapchick said. “This is such a group. In the absence of the BCA, this organization has the potential to have an impact on their own campuses as well as the NCAA.”

Norvell said NAFCED leaders plan to meet with NCAA leadership and conference commissioners in coming months.

“I do think for the health of the game we need diversity on the sideline,” former Georgia Tech and George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. “It’s vitally important. We’re going through a very critical stage here and we need a lot of different ideas, a lot of different thoughts, a lot of different perspectives so we can arrive at the best place for the game and the kids who play the game.”

The biggest question will be whether the NCAA, or any other governing body, can enforce the rules on such a wide swath of public and private institutions. In 2009, Oregon passed a law that requires all of its public universities to interview minority candidates for coaching positions, but the law does not penalize schools that do not follow the rules.

Norvell said NAFCED, which is partnering with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports and The No Hate Zone in pushing for an Eddie Robinson Rule, said the public pressure that could be generated from such a measure would help schools adhere to the rule. Lapchick said he thinks legislative action would be more compelling than any perceived punishment that the NCAA could hand out.

“Having Congress rattling the sword as a result of this announcement by NAFCED would be an additional vehicle that would make the possibility of the NCAA moving more likely,” Lapchick said. “But I think this is the first step. Bringing Congress in to act would be a positive second step.”

Power forward becomes Texas Tech’s fourth 2015 commitment

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Texas Tech added another piece to its front court on Thursday, as three-star power forward Shawntrez Davis committed to Tubby Smith’s program according to 247Sports. The 6-foot-8 Davis, who attends Sound Doctrine Christian Academy in LaGrange, Georgia, is the fourth commitment in the Class of 2015 for Texas Tech and he joins a front court that will be young in 2015-16.

Texas Tech’s three other commitments in the class are junior college transfer Devon Thomas and freshman guards C.J. Williamson Jr. and Jordan Jackson. Williams and Davis were teammates on the Game Elite grassroots squad, which also produced California signee Jaylen Brown.

Davis made the decision to attend Texas Tech two weeks after officially visiting the school, and he was also considering Boston College, LSU and Texas according to 247Sports. Davis officially visited Boston College in late April. Texas is currently in the running for power forward Noah Dickerson, who signed with Florida but reopened his recruitment after Billy Donovan moved on to accept the Oklahoma City Thunder’s head coaching offer.

Texas Tech’s interior rotation currently consists of rising sophomores Isaiah Manderson, Zach Smith and Norense Odiase, with redshirt junior Aaron Ross being the lone upperclassman. The addition of Davis gives Texas Tech some more athleticism in the front court, and his ability as a rebounder should come in handy for a team that ranked ninth in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage last season (67.4 percent).