Sports

Tubby Smith should get strong review from Memphis, lawyer says

"What Tubby has gotten consistently from that administration is 'Coach, we know you're doing this the right way, we know this is a process, we know this is gonna take some time, we're happy with what you're doing,'" said Ricky Lefft, who has been Smith's longtime lawyer. "Tubby told them from the beginning it was a four- to five-year process. When he says it's a process, that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone."

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 intensified the scrutiny on Smith at a school that has yearned for the success it enjoyed under John Calipari in the 2000s.

Picked to finish ninth in the American Athletic Conference this season, Memphis recorded a 10-8 record in conference play with a short-handed roster. Jeremiah Martin (18.9 PPG) is out for the season with a broken foot.

The Tigers advanced in the American conference tournament Thursday with a 79-77 win over South Florida.

Memphis president M. David Rudd told the Commercial Appeal this week that he will evaluate the program after the season.

The school would owe Smith $10 million if it decides to fire him without cause after two seasons.

Considering his finish this season despite everything the team lost, however, Lefft said Smith should receive a high grade on that evaluation.

"If you're going to grade him at the end of the season or grade this team at the end of the season," Lefft said, "he's exceeded expectations, so he should get an A."

Hardaway's connections to elite talent as an admirable coach on the local AAU and high school scene, according to the CBS report, are part of the appeal to his alma mater.

"I know that Penny and Coach have visited with each other," Lefft said. "I think they've played some golf. They've had lunch. I know Coach has reached out to him, as he's reached out to all alumni. [Smith's staff] has recruited Memphis kids. He'd like to have Memphis kids there. At the end of the day, he can't completely control that."

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