Former Gophers men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith, now with Memphis, got going pretty good Sunday when a reporter asked him after a game if he thought all his players would be returning the team next season.
“Kids have a lot of options, nowadays with the new NCAA regulations, guys can transfer when they want. I’ve been in this business a long time, never seen anything like it. We had over 800 Division I players transfer last year.”
At this point, Smith’s voice started to rise, and we reached rant stage.
Tubby Smith had a must-listen rant on college basketball today, citing 800+ transfers last year.
“We’re teaching them how to quit.”
— Clayton Collier (@Local24Clayton) March 4, 2018
“Over 800. Come on,” Smith continued. “We’re teaching them how to quit. That’s what we’re doing. Things not going well, let’s quit.”
Smith isn’t necessarily wrong in criticizing the rate of transfers, but there is a little problem with the double-standard at play here (as Gopher Hole and others have also noted).
Smith, after being fired as Gophers coach, took over at Texas Tech and stayed for three years before hopping over to Memphis.
My math skills aren’t always perfectly sharp, but I’m pretty sure that’s one fewer year than it would take for even one graduating class to go from start to finish at a school.
Earlier in his career, Smith spent four years at Tulsa before moving on for a two-year pit stop at Georgia before moving on to Kentucky.
So, it’s OK for a coach to move on but not a player? Well, Smith didn’t answer that question directly but he did appear to be making a distinction with this anecdote about how he wanted to quit during his freshman year at High Point.
“I remember calling my dad when I was a freshman. He said, ‘Son, somebody do something to you?’ No,” Smith recalled. “‘You still getting your scholarship, aren’t you? They’re still feeding you? They still housing you? You still getting an education?’ “I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He said, ‘Well, you can’t come home. Your bed’s been taken. This is 1968, 1969. But you can join the Army.’ Best thing he ever said to me.”
Wait, so it’s OK to leave a good situation for a better one as a coach, but it’s not OK to leave a bad situation for a better one as a player?
“Somebody needs to tell them you made a commitment. Stick to it,” Smith said later. “But it doesn’t happen that way. They have a lot of people in their ear. That’s the way life is.”
Again, I get what he’s saying in principle. He has a valid point in that sometimes people in any walk of life — young or old, athlete or not — are too quick to give up when things aren’t going their way. There are valuable life lessons that can be learned through perseverance.
But when that message is delivered by a coach who has on multiple occasions left jobs to pursue other opportunities — breaking a commitment with the very players he expects a full commitment from — it tends to ring pretty hollow.
Baby boomers these days.