It’s been a tough spring for Tubby Smith.
In his first year at Memphis, his Tigers went 19-13 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Then over the past several weeks, the program has had several transfers that could cripple the program for the next couple of seasons.
And to top it off, some Memphis writers are now still bringing up the glory days and pining for John Calipari. It's a tough situation for Smith as he is in the career position of trying to fill the expectations left by another legendary coach.
This week, the Memphis situation seemed to hit its peak when Markel Anthony announced that he was going to transfer. For his credit, Tubby has been replenishing his roster, but he definitely has a rebuilding challenge ahead of him.
Crawford becomes the sixth player from last year's roster to leave since Smith's first season at Memphis ended last month. The Tigers will return just two of their top nine scorers from a year ago (point guard Jeremiah Martin and forward Jimario Rivers).
Memphis has subsequently gotten commitments over the past five days from junior college prospects Kareem Brewton and forward Kyvon Davenport, were ranked No. 22 and No. 19 in this year's jucorecruiting.com top 100. They will join a 2017 recruiting class that also includes three-star recruits Jamal Johnson, David Nickelberry and Victor Enoh.
College transfers happen, but it is a little unusual to see the mass exodus from Memphis after Smith's first season. It's also a little surprising to see that some Memphis writers are choosing to somehow blame John Calipari's leaving for the state of the program eight years later.
This is heartbreaking for a program that is a few years removed from their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. In fact, Memphis made nine tournaments in 11 years from 2003 to 2013. They had a Hall of Fame coach in John Calipari roaming their sidelines and they had Derrick Rose leading their unit back in 2007-08.
Even after the Calipari era, the Tigers were a success as Josh Pastner led the team to four NCAA Tournaments and five 20+ win seasons in seven years.
But Memphis fans couldn’t keep Calipari out of their minds. Instead of sticking with a young promising coach, the fan base grew tired of losing before the first weekend of the Big Dance ended. The last straw was when Pastner and the Tigers failed to make a postseason appearance in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
That’s when the Tigers had to pay Pastner to leave the school and take the Georgia Tech position. Like Tom Crean in Indiana, the relationship between the fan base and the coaching staff could not be revived.
A year later, and this is where the Tigers stand.
Kind of dramatic, eh? Calipari’s departure was always expected — he’s currently guiding a blue blood program — but pushing out Pastner has spiraled Memphis into rock bottom
First off, no one is ever going to confuse Josh Pastner with John Calipari. Pastner was a nice coach at Memphis, but in the end, he was a coach that could not get to the Sweet 16 in his career --- even with a 31 win team in 2013.
And this was a coach that went 37-29 in his last two seasons and an 18-18 mark in the AAC. To say that getting rid of a coach that did not sniff the NCAA for two straight years was rock bottom is kind of dramatic.
Also, anyone that knows coaching knows that Tubby Smith is not the type of coach that is going to be a one-year-fix. He is generally a coach that comes in when a program is in the rubbles and rebuilds the program. In pretty much every job he's had, he has left the program in a much better position than when he arrived.
The one anomaly was at Kentucky, but the fact that he won a title at Kentucky is what made him a must-hire for Memphis after eight seasons of ineffectiveness by Pastner.
While the players leaving at Memphis are concerning, the Tigers have the perfect coach that will be able to rebuild this team in his image. And the Tigers will be a NCAA Tournament team by the time that he leaves. To expect him to be an immediate program changer was asinine on Memphis fan's part. But give him a few years and the man will turn Memphis into a solid program again.