Tubby Smith truly is one of the legends of college basketball. He has been a part of 758 collegiate wins and 23 trips to the NCAA Tournament since he started coaching as an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth in 1979. But beyond that, he is one of seven active head coaches to win 500 games and a national championship as a head coach.
Truly a gentleman's gentleman, Smith was named the 16th head basketball coach in Texas Tech history on April 1, 2013.
In his first season on the High Plains, Smith became the calming influence of a program that had three coaches in three seasons prior to his arrival. Though the first losing season in his tenure as a head coach and just the second losing season in his 40-year history as a coach, Smith led the Red Raiders to their most overall wins since 2010. He also became the first coach at Texas Tech to win six conference games since Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight did it in 2008.
Smith's energy was felt not only in the United Supermarkets Arena, but throughout the community and amongst the students. In his first season, Smith had energized a fan base to produce four different crowds of 12,000-plus for the first time since 2005, when the Red Raiders had five 12,000-plus attendances. Included in that group was the school's first sellout since 2007 and just the 11th since the Red Raiders moved from the Coliseum to the USA in 1999.
Smith provided the guidance his Red Raider squad needed in 2013-14, as Texas Tech toppled three Top 25 teams during the season. First came an 82-72 win over No. 12 Baylor, snapping a 34-game losing streak to ranked opponents that dated back to 2009. Then he added a ranked win over No. 18 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Oklahoma. It was the first time since the 2008 season that the Red Raiders had won three ranked games.
Prior to his arrival at Texas Tech, Smith had amassed 22 years of head coaching experience, winning more than 500 games at the likes of Minnesota, Kentucky, Georgia and Tulsa. In that time, he has claimed a National Championship (Kentucky in 1997-98), made four Elite Eight appearances, nine Sweet Sixteen appearances and has posted 20-or-more victories in 19 seasons while making 17 trips to the NCAA Tournament.
He is also one of just nine head coaches in the country to take four different schools to the NCAA Tournament, joining Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, John Belein, Gene Bartow, Jim Harrick, Lon Kruger, Tom Penders and Lefty Driesell. Smith will look to join Lon Kruger as the only two coaches to take five teams to the tournament, after Kruger led Oklahoma to the Dance last season.
Smith came to Lubbock after six seasons at Minnesota where he led the Golden Gophers to three NCAA Tournament appearances, and two trips to the National Invitation Tournament, including a runner-up finish in 2012, and six victories over top-10 ranked teams. Prior to Smith's arrival, Minnesota had not defeated a top 10 team in almost three seasons.
Smith closed out the Minnesota chapter of his coaching record with a 124-81 overall record, marking the eighth Gophers head coach to reach the 100-win plateau. He led the Gophers to five 20-plus win seasons during that time after inheriting a program that had won just nine games the season prior to his arrival.
In his final season at Minnesota, Smith guided the Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1990 as No. 11 seed Minnesota topped No. 6 seed UCLA, 83-63, before falling to eventual Elite Eight participant Florida in the third round.
Smith guided Minnesota back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 in just his second season, as his 2008-09 squad sprinted out to a 12-0 non-conference record, the fifth-best start in program history. The team went on to win nine games during the Big Ten Conference schedule, added an opening round victory in the conference tournament and was awarded a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With a 22-11 record that year, Smith became the first Minnesota coach to lead the Gophers to consecutive 20-win seasons in school history. It was also just the ninth time in school history the program reached the 20-win plateau.
Smith continued his success the following year with 21 victories and Minnesota's first-ever trip to the championship game of the Big Ten Conference Tournament. Minnesota garnered a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, its second-straight tournament berth, which was a feat that had not previously been accomplished in back-to-back seasons since the 1993-94 and 1994-95 campaigns that were later vacated.
In his first season at Minnesota, Smith took a team that had won nine games the season before to a 20-14 record. The 11-game improvement marked the largest season turnaround in school history and tied for the second-best turnaround in Division I during the 2007-08 campaign.
It was the first of five 20-plus win seasons for Smith in Minneapolis as the Gophers also went 23-15 in 2011-12 with a runner-up finish at the NIT Postseason Tournament.
Smith came to Minnesota with a reputation for winning at the highest level not matched by many coaches in the country. His 407 wins entering the 2008-09 season was the sixth-best record of any head coach in their first 17 years in NCAA Division I basketball, joining such names as Roy Williams, Denny Crum, Jim Boeheim, Nolan Richardson and Jerry Tarkanian.
Prior to arriving in Big Ten Country, Smith spent 10 seasons (1997-2007) in the Southeastern Conference as the head coach at the University of Kentucky. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Smith led Kentucky to the 1998 NCAA National Championship, four Elite Eight appearances, five SEC titles, five SEC Tournament titles and six Sweet Sixteen finishes.
Smith led the Wildcats to an overall record of 263-83, a .760 winning percentage which ranks third in program history only behind Adolph Rupp and Rick Pitino among coaches with a tenure of at least three seasons. He averaged over 26 wins per season en route to becoming the third-longest tenured coach all-time at Kentucky.
During that time, Smith was 120-40 in SEC play for a .750 winning percentage. His 120 wins were 14 more than any other program in the SEC had during Smith's decade of dominance. He finished in sole possession or tied for first in the SEC East in seven of the 10 years and was 24-7 in SEC Tournament games.
During his first season in Lexington, Smith became the first coach since Cincinnati's Ed Jucker in 1961 to win a national title in his first year, as the Wildcats overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to top Utah, 78-69, for the 1998 NCAA Championship. It was the third straight second-half comeback for the Wildcats, who had previously trailed Duke in the regional finals and then Stanford in the national semifinals.
The Wildcats closed the year 35-4 overall, the first of two 30-plus win seasons for Smith at Kentucky. During his remaining nine seasons, Smith's teams finished with 20-or-more victories and advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament each year.
Smith moved to Kentucky following two seasons at fellow SEC counterpart Georgia where he led the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years in his first season. Georgia finished 21-10 in his inaugural 1995-96 season and advanced to the Sweet 16, the furthest the Bulldogs had advanced previously since 1983.
Georgia upended Clemson and No. 1 seed Purdue on its way to the Sweet 16 where a last-second shot by Syracuse ended the Bulldogs season. Syracuse later advanced to the NCAA Championship game where it fell to Kentucky.
After losing eight seniors and all five starters from that Sweet 16 team, Smith led a young Georgia team to a 24-9 record that matched the school's single-season record for most wins. The Bulldogs finished the 1996-97 season third in the SEC with a 10-6 league record and eventually advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship game for the first time since 1998.
Georgia finished the year ranked 17th in the final AP poll and earned a No. 3 seed in the Southeast Regional. It was the first time in school history that Georgia had recorded 20-plus wins in consecutive seasons.
Following assistant coaching stops at Virginia Commonwealth, South Carolina and Kentucky, Smith got his first head coaching opportunity in 1991 at Tulsa where he totaled a 79-43 record over four seasons with two trips to the Sweet 16. He led the Golden Hurricane to the Missouri Valley Conference championship in both 1994-95 thanks in part to back-to-back 20-win seasons.
Tulsa went 23-8 and 24-8 in his final two seasons, marking what was then the third-highest victory total in school history. Smith was named the MVC's Coach of the Year following both seasons.
Smith has been named a conference coach of the year on five different occasions during his career as he was also honored by the SEC following the 1997-98, 2002-03, and 2004-05 seasons. He was also named the National Coach of the Year following each of those seasons as well.
Not only has Smith had elite success, but he has prepared his players to have all the skills necessary to make the jump to the next level. Smith has sent 19 players to the NBA during his coaching career. That list includes 2008 NBA Champion Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics as well as Jodie Meeks, Chuck Hayes, Shandon Anderson, Nazr Mohammed, Tayshaun Prince, Scott Padgett, Jamaal Magloire, Kelenna Azubuike and Keith Bogans. Other Smith players to reach the NBA include Shea Seals, Wayne Turner, Michael Ruffin, Erik Daniels, Randolph Morris, Gerald Fitch, Jeff Sheppard, Joe Crawford and Michael Bradley.
The opportunity to play in the NBA was particularly sweet for Rondo, Prince and Anderson, who all realized the dream of winning NBA titles. Rondo was the starting point guard for the Celtics as they made their championship run in 2008 while Prince was an integral part of the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons. Anderson was part of a veteran group of players on the Miami Heat who claimed the 2006 NBA Championship.
Nine of the players Smith has sent to the NBA heard their names called on draft day. Rondo, Magloire, Mohammed, Padgett and Prince were each first round draft picks, while Anderson, Bogans, Meeks and Ruffin each went in the second round. Prince was also a member of the United States basketball team that won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
A 1973 graduate of High Point (N.C.) College, Smith was an all-conference performer as a senior before finishing his career as the seventh all-time leading scorer in school history. Smith, who earned his degree in health and physical education, was honored on Dec. 8, 2011, by his alma mater with a banner bearing his name that now hangs from the rafters at the Millis Center.
Smith is the sixth of 17 children raised on a rural farm in southern Maryland. He and his wife Donna, have three sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren: Orlando (G.G.) Smith, who is the head coach at Loyola University in Maryland and his wife Lorie, granddaughter Jayna Marie and son Ross; Saul Smith, who is the video coordinator at Texas Tech; and Brian Smith, an Ole Miss graduate, who is presently working as an assistant coach and physical education teacher in Florida.