MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis is turning to Tubby Smith to get the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament, something the veteran coach already has done at five other schools.
Smith was introduced Thursday as the Tigers' new coach, less than a week after Georgia Tech hired away Josh Pastner. The move from the 38-year-old Pastner - who arrived at Memphis as a head coaching newcomer - to the 64-year-old Smith represents a major change from an experience standpoint.
Smith and Lon Kruger are the only two coaches to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament. Smith most recently got there with Texas Tech, which went 19-13 and earned an NCAA bid this season in his third year on the job.
"The sky's the limit for this program," Smith said at his introductory press conference. "We want to take it to championship-caliber play."
Smith is 557-276 and won a 1998 national title with Kentucky. He also has worked at Tulsa, Georgia and Minnesota during a head coaching career that began in 1991. Smith and Lon Kruger are the only two coaches to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament.
"A historic hire for the University of Memphis," Memphis President M. David Rudd said in a university release. "He is the most accomplished coach the UofM has ever hired. For the University of Memphis and our basketball program, Tubby Smith is simply the right guy at the right time."
Smith replaces Pastner, who went 167-63 with four NCAA Tournament berths in seven seasons at Memphis. Pastner was hired when John Calipari left for Kentucky in April 2009.
Smith said Thursday he wanted to let his Texas Tech players know how much he appreciated them, but he also discussed his excitement about taking over Memphis' program.
"When you see our teams play, you're going to walk out of this gym... (and) you're going to say that team gave it all they had, they played hard, they played together and they played smart," Smith said. "That's what we preach and what we teach."
Although Pastner led Memphis to four straight NCAA appearances from 2011-14, the Tigers failed to earn an NCAA bid the last two seasons while going a combined 37-29. Memphis went 19-15 this season and lost to Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference tournament final.
Memphis' recent struggles to disenchantment with Pastner. The Tigers' announced home attendance dropped from more than 16,000 during Memphis' last NCAA Tournament season of 2013-14 to 11,812 this season.
Last month, Rudd and athletic director Tom Bowen issued a statement saying the men's basketball program "operates in a manner consistent with the core values of our university and community but has fallen short in our on-court performance the last two years." Rudd and Bowen indicated in that statement they planned to keep Pastner next season, but the coach left for Georgia Tech three weeks later.