UK Men's Basketball

Three and out: Tubby Smith, Rick Stansbury and the best hire of 2016

Rick Stansbury at the news conference where he was introduced as Western Kentucky University men’s basketball coach
Rick Stansbury at the news conference where he was introduced as Western Kentucky University men’s basketball coach Associated Press

Three key questions about 2016’s men’s college basketball coaching carousel:

Question 1: Tubby Smith to Memphis. A good fit?

GENE ABELL, former Lexington Herald-Leader Sports Editor: “Tubby is one of the ‘good guys' in the coaching business and a true gentleman. He is a strong bench coach who never received the credit he deserved for UK's 1998 title run. For him, Memphis probably has a higher ceiling than Texas Tech, giving him a better chance to be a national player again. I am not convinced it is a great fit. Since he left UK, Tubby has never finished higher than sixth in his conference. Yes, Minnesota and Texas Tech are tough jobs. Can he recruit as needed to elevate Memphis? I hope so because I like him but not sure it will happen."

CAMERON MILLS, host of The Cameron Mills Show, WWTF 1580-AM (and a former Kentucky Wildcats basketball player under Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith): “You know, I don’t know. I keep hearing both sides, especially from those who follow recruiting more than I do. There’s no better person than Coach Smith, and there’s nobody who will be a better role model for his players than Tubby Smith. And I think he’ll have a better chance to win than he had at Texas Tech. He won’t have to play Texas twice a year, he won’t have to play Kansas twice a year. He won’t have to play Oklahoma, which was a power house last year at least, twice a year. But can he recruit the type of players you have to recruit to win at Memphis? I don’t know.”

MARK STORY, Lexington Herald-Leader Sports Columnist: “Texas Tech is the ninth best basketball job in a 10-team Big 12. Memphis has played in three Final Fours (though it vacated two of them). So I get why Tubby made the move. My question is whether he can successfully recruit to an urban school? If he can get the players, Tubby Smith will coach them well.”

Question 2: Rick Stansbury to Western Kentucky. A good hire?

ABELL: “Stansbury is a good hire for Western. Obviously he gets to be the top guy again (after being an assistant at Texas A&M), which I am sure was his goal. He brings a high profile to Western and he has Kentucky connections (Meade County High School and Campbellsville University alumnus), which should excite the fan base. He is a proven recruiter, which is a must for Western to progress. This one will be fun to watch.”

MILLS: “I would think Stansbury, being a long-time successful SEC head coach (at Mississippi State) is absolutely a good fit at Western. I never really understood why Mississippi State let him go, to be honest.”

STORY: “Western’s better coaching hires in the last 25 years have tended to be young, hungry assistants on the way up - think Dennis Felton and Darrin Horn in men’s basketball, Willie Taggart and Jeff Brohm in football and Michelle Clark-Heard in women’s hoops. At 56, Rick Stansbury doesn’t exactly fit that profile but, if not young, I’m guessing Stansbury is hungry to show Mississippi State what it lost. I’m confident Stansbury will get players - and since he’s inheriting a roster with literally no guards on scholarship, he better start in the backcourt.”

Question 3: Best hire of the 2016 men’s college basketball coaching carousel?

ABELL: “A tie between Bryce Drew to Vandy and Jamie Dixon to TCU. Drew won the Horizon League four of the five years he was at Valpo and was 58-13 the last two years. Kevin Stallings is a good coach but that regime seemed to getting a little stale at Vandy so Drew should ignite the fans. Dixon is a excellent coach who could make TCU relevant.”

MILLS: “Whoever got the UNLV job (which turned out to be ex-New Mexico State head coach and Louisville assistant Marvin Menzies). You look at what UNLV has been able to do in the past (four Final Four trips, 1990 NCAA championship), and then I just think there ought to be few easier recruiting jobs - and I’m not saying this is necessarily for good reasons - than getting teenaged boys to come live in Las Vegas.”

STORY: “I think the hire with the most upside is Bryce Drew at Vanderbilt. At 41, Drew has already coached Valparaiso to the NCAA Tournament twice and the finals of the NIT. He’s very famous from his days as a player, having hit one of the most famous game-winners in March Madness history and played in the NBA. Can he recruit at the level it will take for Vanderbilt to finally break through and make a Final Four? That’s the question, but I think Bryce Drew at Vandy has a chance to hit big.”

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