Tubby Smith didn't deserve to be fired, but Memphis made the right decision to fire him

In a move everyone expected, Tubby Smith and Memphis have parted ways.


After a meeting on Wednesday with Memphis president David Rudd and athletic director Tom Bowen, Smith told the Commercial Appeal that he is no longer the head coach of the Tiger basketball program.

The expectation is that Smith will be replaced by Penny Hardaway.

By now, this story line has just about been beaten to death. Tubby Smith coached just two seasons at Memphis. He won 21 games this past season and coached one of the league’s biggest surprises. But his nearly-$10 million buyout is worth paying because of the amount of revenue that the Memphis program is losing due to ticket sales, donations and revenue they generate by selling out the FedEx Forum, which is owned by the Grizzlies.

Penny is the guy that is going to replace him because he’s the most famous basketball from the city of Memphis and an alum of the school. He has all kinds of talent on the high school and AAU teams that he coaches in the city and would instantly rejuvenate a fanbase that has become alienated.


I say all that to say this: There is nothing about the job that Tubby Smith did this season that deserved firing. He coached up a team with nowhere near the talent we generally associate with Memphis. They won 21 games with a roster held together by paper clips and scotch tape, finishing fifth in a league where some thought they would only be better South Florida and East Carolina. The reason his roster was depleted? He didn’t want to put up with the nonsense that came with keeping Keelon Lawson as one of his three assistant coaches.

He didn’t want to play that game.

But in Memphis, at a certain point, you have to play that game.

Which is why Smith was probably the wrong hire to begin with.

And at some point, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it to keep paying a coach you know is the wrong coach for your program, even if he’s doing his job well enough that he doesn’t deserve what’s about to come.

Smith is going to get his money and, if he wants it, another job coaching basketball somewhere. He’s too good at this to not get hired. And Memphis is probably going to end up with the guy they wanted from the beginning.

This was always going to be the reality here, and an amicable parting of ways is probably a better result than a long, drawn out divorce.

Dalen Cuff joined Rob Dauster for the final bracket breakdown episode, and you can tell the guys were wired because they ended up on tangents talking about the Ivy League, Joel Berry II crying and Harry Kane’s (who?) ankle. Anyway, there is plenty of NCAA tournament goodness in this pod. The rundown:

OPEN: Dalen doesn’t drink coffee, and a deep dive into Virginia, Deandre Hunter and what his injury means.

9:35: Can Penn upset Kansas turns into a fascinating discussion about power dynamics in the Ivy League.

18:45: Who is this year’s Shabazz Napier?

23:25: Who is this year’s Adam Morrison?

25:00: So what’s going on with this West Region?

34:15: Lightening Round Questions!

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Four weeks ago, when San Diego State was 13-10 and in eighth place in the Mountain West Conference, even a berth in the NIT seemed farfetched in the Aztecs’ first season under coach Brian Dutcher.

There were rumblings that maybe Dutcher hadn’t been the right guy to replace Steve Fisher, even though the longtime loyal lieutenant had been the “head coach in waiting” since 2011.

Then it all changed as Dutcher guided the Aztecs out of the rough stretch and back into the NCAAs for the seventh time in nine seasons.

SDSU has won nine straight games, including a three-game run through the conference tournament to clinch the MWC’s automatic berth. The Aztecs beat three higher-seeded teams, including top-seeded and No. 22 Nevada, which they also defeated at home in the final week of the regular season.

One huge boost for the Aztecs was the return of senior guard Trey Kell, who had missed three games with a sprained ankle, including consecutive blowout losses at Nevada and Fresno State.

Then there was Dutcher’s unwavering belief in a team that missed the postseason altogether last year, Fisher’s 18th and final season leading the Aztecs.

“I told them we were the best team in the conference,” Dutcher said after the Aztecs (22-10) drew the 11th seed in the West Regional and a matchup against sixth-seeded Houston (26-7) on Thursday in Wichita, Kansas. “We had to go out there and prove that, not only to ourselves, but to the rest of the conference. We went on an incredible run.”

Dutcher has been to the NCAA Tournament 16 times previously, eight as an assistant at Michigan and eight with SDSU. All were at Fisher’s side except one, after Fisher had been fired because of the program’s involvement with booster Ed Martin. Dutcher was there when Fisher was elevated to interim head coach on the eve of the 1989 NCAA Tournament and led the Wolverines to the championship.

When Fisher was hired by SDSU prior to the 1999-2000 season, he brought Dutcher along as he revived the moribund program. SDSU went to the NCAA tourney eight times under Fisher. The Aztecs went a school-record six straight times from 2010-15, including the school’s first two Sweet 16 appearances.

“Just by nature, I’m happiest for the kids,” said Dutcher, who never had been a head coach until replacing Fisher. “Because as a coach, maybe if you fall short a year you can always go the next year, the next year, the next year. These kids, they have a four-year opportunity to go the NCAA Tournament. When Trey and Malik (Pope) went their first year, it seemed like, well hell, maybe we’ll go three more. As it turned out we got to their senior year and we really had to play well to get them there for their senior year.”

Fisher remains a university employee, working on development. Fisher also drives his son, Mark, who has ALS, to and from campus where he remains part of the coaching staff.

Steve Fisher said he’s proud of Dutcher’s stability and consistency.

“So often when you have some bumps in the road, you tend to jerk the wheel all over the road, and he’s had a steady hand on the rudder and the wheel,” Fisher said. “He bowed his back. Ten games ago when we got beat by 20 at Nevada, everybody was talking about how bad we were and all of this stuff and he’s just steady as a rock. And I think that guided the team through where they were to where they are. … And the team, too. They’ve done a magnificent job, and he’s been the leader of the pack. Good for all of them.”

Fisher has gone to every home game and some on the road, including the conference tournament.

“It’s different,” he said. “It’s easier. You sit where I do and you’ve got all the answers right after the fact. You don’t realize how hard it is when you’re sitting where I was, for those on the bench. I’ve been a good fan and I’ve been a nervous fan with a vested interest.

“We feel that we’ve got a program, underline program, and we should have an opportunity to compete to get into the NCAA Tournament, and we found a way this year, so it was very nice,” Fisher added.

Dutcher sees Steve Fisher every day. During the rough stretch, he said the former coach offered encouragement rather than strategy.

“We usually just say hello,” said Dutcher, whose father, Jim, was head coach at Eastern Michigan and Minnesota. “He doesn’t want to interject unless I ask him. So he’s not up in there closing the door and saying, ‘I think I have some advice for you.’ All the advice he’s given me is 29 years in the making. If I wasn’t listening, there’s no sense in listening now.”

Let’s get something out there before we even start to dive into this discussion: Chimezie Metu is not doing anything wrong.

He’s probably heading to the NBA after this season. He doesn’t want to jeopardize any chance that he has of getting drafted by injuring himself in a tournament that no one actually cares about. How many people knew that the NIT started last night, let alone actually watched one of the games?

Not many.

So the fact that he made a business decision to protect the thing that is going to make him money — his health, his athletic ability — while playing the sport at a level that does not pay him is absolutely, 100 percent justified.

To be frank, I don’t have the time or energy to argue with people that will disagree about this, so I’ll just make this point: Even something as simple as a sprained ankle could severely impact Metu’s chances of getting drafted in the first round. He needs to be 100 percent as he goes through those workouts and tries to earn a spot in the draft and on an NBA roster.

I have zero issue with his decision.

In fact, I applaud.

Go get your’s, Chimezie.

And don’t be afraid to light a few people up on the way out:

Got ’em.

Ole Miss is expected to announce in the coming days that they will be hiring Middle Tennessee State head coach Kermit Davis to replace Andy Kennedy.

Davis will continue to coach the Blue Raiders throughout their NIT run, according to 247 Sports.

Davis has been with Middle Tennessee for the past 16 seasons, helping to build the program into one of the strongest at the mid-major level. The Blue Raiders had won a game in the NCAA in each of the last two seasons prior to getting snubbed for an at-large bid this year. MTSU has won five regular season titles in the last seven seasons. Davis was the youngest head coach in America when he got his first job at Idaho in 1988. Two years later, he was hired by Texas A&M. He lasted for one season before getting fired and slapped with a two-year show-cause for allegedly paying a “talent scout” from New York City and a player named Tony Scott to get that player to transfer from Syracuse to A&M.

There’s no question that Davis is a terrific coach.

The question is just how different he is from Kennedy. The knock on Kennedy in recent reasons is that he wasn’t able to recruit the high-end, five-star talent and that he spent too much time mixing it up with JuCo prospects that were good enough to keep the Rebels relevant but not good enough to turn them into SEC title contenders. That’s Davis’ bread and butter.

It will interesting to see

So here’s the thing about this year’s bracket: I just don’t love any of the teams that are sitting outside of the top three or four seeds.

And I know that sounds … well, way too much like I’ve watched a thousand games over the course of the last five months, but it’s the truth. 

As much as we want to talk about how unreliable some of the teams at the top of the bracket are, I struggle even more with figuring out who is actually going to beat them. 

Anyway, here is a look at a few teams that aren’t considered a favorite in their region that have the horses to be able to make a run.

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FLORIDA: Easily and unquestionably my favorite darkhorse to make a run in the NCAA tournament simply because Florida is totally immune to what their opponent does. What I mean by that is that they can, at times, look like they would give the Golden State Warriors a run for their money in the Western Conference. At other times, they look like a team that has no business being in the NCAA tournament, let alone as a No. 6 seed.

And good luck trying to figure out when Good Florida will actually make an appearance. You might as well give out expert picks on the lottery. But here’s the thing: When Good Florida does show up, they are so, so, SO good. I honestly think it’s something that is as simple as confidence. They see a couple shots go down, they start playing with a little more energy defensively, suddenly they are getting some cleaner looks in transition and before you know it, Jalen Hudson, Egor Koulechov and KeVaughn Allen cannot miss even when they try. Throw in the presence of a feisty senior point guard in Chris Chiozza, and there is a lot to love about this Florida team.

Just as long as you realize that they are as likely to lose by 25 points in the first round as they are to get to a Final Four, and that there is no in-between.

HOUSTON: The Cougars have been one of the hottest teams in the country over the course of the last month, and if it wasn’t for an errant Rob Gray pass on their final possession of the AAC title game, we may be talking about them as the champions of the AAC tournament. Throw in the coaching chops of Kelvin Sampson and a region that is wide open at the top, and the Cougars could end up being this year’s South Carolina.

TEXAS A&M: Generally speaking, if I’m looking for an underdog that can make a run, I’m looking for teams with great point guard play first and foremost. Texas A&M ain’t that. They lost their starting point guard, Duane Wilson, to an ACL injury after the other two point guards they had hoped would start couldn’t stay out of trouble. What this group does have is a front line that can overpower anybody. Whether or not their guards can actually get those big men the ball is a different story, but if they can, Tyler Davis and Robert Williams can be absolutely dominant in a part of the bracket where there aren’t a lot of big bodies.

NEVADA: The Wolf Pack have struggled a bit since they lost Lindsay Drew to a ruptured achilles a month ago, but this is still a team with ‘dudes’. Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin are all capable of putting up 30 points on a given night, and they aren’t afraid of taking — and making — tough shots. Their depth is stretched right now, but there is no question that this group has the talent to be a threat in a region that is fairly open.

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WEST VIRGINIA: Simply put: There is no matchup in college basketball that is worse for West Virginia that Villanova. Press Virginia relies on getting teams rattled and forcing turnovers. Villanova is not going to get rattled. They aren’t going to make mistakes. Jalen Brunson hasn’t been sped up by anyone ever. And when the Wildcats do break that press, they are going to get wide-open threes all game. It’s an awful, awful matchup.

KENTUCKY: Let’s start with this: To beat Virginia, which Kentucky would probably have to do in the Sweet 16, you need to be a team that is patient and disciplined defensively that will be able to make shots from the perimeter on the offensive end of the floor. That ain’t Kentucky.

But I also have my doubts about whether or not the Wildcats can get that far. Let’s ignore the fact that they likely have Arizona and Deandre Ayton in the second round of the tournament and focus, instead, on Davidson. Those Wildcats run an offense that is a nightmare for the veteran teams in the Atlantic 10 to prepare for and play against when they have been in the league together for years. Now imagine you are Kentucky and have two or three days to prepare yourself for that offense?

Now should I mention how good Payton Aldridge and Kellan Grady are?


TEXAS TECH: I am all in on the Texas Tech bandwagon, and I have been for a while. This is UConn 2014 all over again. That UConn team is the only team in the last 16 years to rank outside of the top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom and win the national title. They won it because it was a weird year with college basketball’s best teams, they were elite defensively and they had this guy named Shabazz Napier who took games over and made big shot after big shot.

Texas Tech is ranked third nationally in defensive efficiency, recently cracked the top 50 in offensive efficiency and has Keenan Evans on the roster, who is way too similar to Napier.

Oh, and it’s a weird year for the best teams in the country.

This is destined to happen.

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