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A New Era


Smith and Whitaker begin their first seasons at Tech in 2013-14

Nov. 2, 2013

BY TRAVIS CRAM
Special to TexasTech.com

A new era has begun for Texas Tech basketball.

The Red Raider and Lady Raider basketball programs will each have a new head coach in the same season for the first time in school history as Tubby Smith and Candi Whitaker take over at United Spirit Arena.

It's a long-awaited homecoming for Whitaker, who played point guard at Texas Tech from 2000-02 and led the Lady Raiders to a pair of Sweet 16 appearances. She spent six seasons at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and one season with Oklahoma State as an associate head coach before getting her opportunity to return to West Texas.

"I've always been proud to be part of Lady Raider Nation," Whitaker said. "I am just blessed to have this opportunity. This is something I've always dreamed of. From an early age, I wanted to coach, and this is a dream come true for me."

Whitaker quickly became one of the up and coming young coaches in women's basketball and took over the UMKC program midway through the 2006 season. She led the Kangaroos in 2010 to their first winning season in league play since 2003.

UMKC went on to have its winningest season in program history in 2011-12 and also made its second of its only two postseason appearances.

A native of Canyon, Texas, Whitaker spent two seasons at Seward County Community College under coach Jim Littell - whom she would eventually work with for one season at Oklahoma State. Whitaker led the Saints to a 65-5 record and No. 1 ranking over two seasons while averaging 10.2 points and 10.8 assists per game. She earned an NJCAA All-American Honorable Mention selection in her sophomore year before transferring to Tech in 2000.

She helped the Lady Raiders reach the Sweet 16 in 2001 and 2002 while leading the team with 249 assists (3.8 per game).

"Growing up in West Texas I always dreamed of being a Lady Raider," Whitaker said. "I chose Tech because of the tradition and success of the program and the tremendous fan support. The fans are truly what made this program so special and why we had such success and why people wanted to play here."

Smith comes to Tech after a long tradition of success at several programs over the past 22 years. He's led four different programs to the NCAA Tournament, making 17 appearances, including nine Sweet 16s and four Elite Eights.

He led Kentucky to the 1998 national championship in his first season with the Wildcats and was recently inducted into the Kentucky Basketball Hall of Fame. Smith has coached 22 NBA players along the way while compiling a 511-226 record and nine conference championships at Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky.

He spent the last 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 ended his career at Minnesota 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. "It's my goal to build this program into one of the top programs, not just in the Big 12 but in the country, and that's not going to be easy," Smith said.

"It's going to be hard work, and we know that the sacrifices and the process of rebuilding a program is not easy. We've done it a few places, and I think that the identity and the talent that we have here, we have a good start."

 

 

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