The Tubby Smith Era Begins

The Tubby Smith era officially tips off 7 p.m. Friday against Houston Baptist at United Spirit Arena. Smith offers hope to a Red Raiders basketball program which has fallen on hard times. The veteran coach brings with him a proven track record of success and is, by all accounts, a classy guy.

The Tubby Smith era officially tips off 7 p.m. Friday against Houston Baptist at United Spirit Arena.

Smith offers hope to a Red Raiders basketball program which has fallen on hard times.

Texas Tech has not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since the 2006-07 season under Bobby Knight.

Since then, the Red Raiders are 81-112 overall, including 19-43 the past two seasons. What's worse, Texas Tech won just four Big 12 games the past two years.

Enter Smith, and his Hall of Fame resume which consists of a 511-226 record in 22 years as a head coach at Minnesota, Kentucky, Georgia and Tulsa. Not to mention the 1997-98 NCAA Championship at Kentucky, four trips to the Elite Eight, nine Sweet Sixteens and 17 appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

"I would say that coach Smith is definitely a legend. His staff knows what they're doing," senior guard Jamal Williams said. "This is my first time actually being with coaches that have actually been in the game and went to the tournament. Not taking anything away from the coaches I came across, but I believe I've learned more with coach Tubby."

Not only does Smith have a proven track record of success, but by all accounts he's a good guy. After all the drama with Billy Gillespie, Smith is a welcome change.

But at the same time nobody will be happy with a nice guy who doesn't win.

The cupboard is not bare for Smith who inherits four returning starters, led by forwards Jaye Crockett, a senior who averaged 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds last season, and Jordan Tolbert, a junior who averaged 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds a season ago.

"We're going to go as far as the leaders on the team take us, you know like me and Jaye Crockett," Tolbert said. "Jaye Crockett has been a great leader as long as I have been here and I try to take notes from him. With me being a junior now, I look at it as my team."

Much will be expected of freshmen Randy Onwuasor, a slashing guard with good range, capable of breaking his man down off the dribble, and 6-foot-8 forward Alex Foster, who Smith said has made great strides since arriving on campus. Yet, no new addition will be counted on more more then point guard Robert Turner, a 6-3 transfer from New Mexico Junior College.

"They'll get their opportunities, especially Robert, he's going to start for us," Smith said. "We really don't have anybody else who has his skill set, who can play the point."

The Red Raiders are also banking on the outside shooting of sophomores Toddrick Gotcher and Dusty Hannahs as well as junior backup point guard Luke Adams.

Throw in bigs Dejan Kravic (7-0), Kader Tapsoba, Aaron Ross and Clark Lammert and Smith believes he has a good mix of depth both inside and on the perimeter.

Tech better put it all together soon because it plays one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. In addition to the usual difficult Big 12 schedule highlighted by games against No. 5 Kansas, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Baylor, the Red Raiders will run a ridiculous non-conference gauntlet that includes contests against Alabama, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Arizona State and LSU.

"We have a lot of things to get ready for -- a very tough schedule -- probably the toughest schedule I've ever been associated with," Smith said.

Even if the results don't immediately change due to the schedule, Texas Tech should be fun to watch with Smith's up-tempo, pressing style. And don't be surprised if the Red Raiders shock one or two teams along the way.

"It'll be a daunting challenge for our guys, but I believe our kids are ready for it and excited about it," Smith said.

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