The Tubby Smith era in Memphis is over.
On Wednesday, the school officially parted ways with the embattled head coach. The former UK national championship coach endured a rocky two-year stint in Memphis after replacing former John Calipari assistant Josh Pastner, who left to become Georgia Tech’s head coach in 2016.
As you can tell, there have been a lot of UK connections at Memphis, and the Tigers’ next hire could have a big impact on UK.
That’s because Memphis is expected to hire Memphis East coach Penny Hardaway. We’ve gone into detail about how this would have a big impact on UK, mainly in the recruitment of one James Wiseman. D.J. Jeffries is also someone Penny has coached on the AAU circuit, though the talented forward just committed to UK on Monday while likely knowing Penny seemed bound for Memphis.
As for Tubby, he finishes his Memphis career with a 40–26 record. At 21-13 this past season, Memphis made it to the AAC tournament semifinals despite losing leading scorer Jeremiah Martin to a broken foot in February. The Tigers were able to win seven of their final nine games, which seemed like it could be enough to save Smith’s job.
After a 19-13 season last year, multiple key players, including K.J. Lawson and Dedric Lawson, left the program. The mass exodus and reduced attendance at home games led to Smith being firmly on the hot seat this season, but all things considered, he probably did enough to keep his job in most scenarios.
But most schools don’t have a coach like Hardaway waiting in the wings to breathe new life into the program. At least, that’s what Memphis appears to be banking on.