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June 25, 2013Some coaches despise the Big 12's summer men's basketball teleconference. Others embrace their 10 minutes to control preseason expectations.
Then there was the new coach who could definitely afford the 10 minutes to reach out to a college basketball world that still doesn't know all that much about him at his new school.
It was a big day for Texas Tech's Tubby Smith and the overlying question was, 'What are you doing to get the Red Raiders out of the ditch?'
"We've had a difficult run in the past few years," the first-year head coach said. "We're trying to change the perception. We have a new philosophy we hope the players -- The good thing is we have the summer workouts and that's been a big help for us. I'm getting to know the players and they're getting to know me.
"Teaching and coaching. My expectation is we'll have a competitive team."
Smith said the team morale has held up pretty well for a program where each player on the basketball roster has had a new head coach each year with exception to Jaye Crockett between his redshirt and freshman years.
"There are a lot of things to deal with," Smith said. "When you come into a program that has had four different coaches -- I'm the fourth head coach in the last four years and Jaye Crockett has had to deal with that. I'm always concerned about the players and how they're adjusting. So far they're doing an outstanding job.
"The difficulty is getting them to appreciate what we can help them do. Changing the culture, changing their mindset when you've had three losing seasons. It takes a while to help them believe."
Coaching staff complete, G.A. Jasper's role increasing
Like Kliff Kingsbury, Smith has done what he could do to build a recruiting class that meets Tech's immediate needs with a shorthanded staff.
Reserrecting Tech basketball is going to be a process and the best way to get some traction is put together a competent coaching staff that can go out and recruit stronger players in the future. That task wrapped up Monday with the formal hiring of former Minnesota assistant coach Vince Taylor who joins Joe Esposito, the former director of basketball operations at Minnesota, and former TCU assistant coach Pooh Williamson.
"Vince was with me for six years at Minnesota," Smith said. "We know each other and he did a great job for us at Minnesota. I'm still looking to fill the basketball operations position. I have some people in my mind and that will basically probably be it."
Craig Wells resigned from the director of basketball operations position last week to pursue an opportunity as the vice president of business development at Happy State Bank in Lubbock.
The primary staff doesn't include a holdover from the Billy Gillispie-Chris Walker regimes, which is fine, but it always helps to have someone who has the program's pulse on day one.
Fortunately, Smith has graduate assistant Derrick Jasper who had been with Red Raider basketball since Gillispie first took the job two seasons ago as a film assistant. Jasper was released in the collective coaching staff release in March and then re-hired by Smith.
The head coach ought to know what the young assistant is capable of. He recruited Jasper to Kentucky in 2006 and then coached him for a year before Gillispie took over Kentucky.
"Out in California, when we first recruited him, he was an outstanding point guard," Smith said. "He did a lot of things and ran the basketball court at Kentucky. I thought he'd play in the NBA for a long time, but he had a severe knee injury. A microfracture in his knee. I don't know what happened, but I knew he never recovered properly and finished his college career at UNLV with Lon Kruger.
"So he's played for some outstanding coaches. Gillispie and Kruger."
The former Rivals.com No. 38 best high school player in the Class of 2006 had the best grasp of the team at 25-years-old when Smith entered the picture.
"He's been a real help," Smith said. "When I came in, I knew him and had recruited him in at Kentucky. So there was a relationship there already. He's a valuable and important part because as assistant video coordinator, which he was, he brings great value, knows the players and they appreciate him.
"I want to move him into a player development position where he can learn even more. Eventually he wants be with the NBA and be a scout. I don't know that he wants to be a coach, but I'm hoping we can influence him because he has a wealth of knowledge, the ability to lead and be a good coach. He was that for us at Kentucky his freshman year."
The staff is in place.
Now it's time to get after the Class of 2014 and make the first real strides toward turning the program around barring a miracle run by Tech in 2013-2014.
"It's an important year for us," Smith said. "We have five seniors in our program that we have to replace. We've got our work cut out for us on the recruiting trail in July. That's the time to evaluate players. We're involved with guys and talking to them now, some of them we saw in April and some of them we were recruiting at Minnesota, we just have to make sure to follow them around the country in July."
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