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AD praises interim coach Chris Walker, says school opted for experience when making basketball hire

Hocutt believes Walker will do "tremendous job" as a head coach, but Tech couldn't pass up Tubby Smith's lengthy resume

Posted: April 2, 2013 - 9:05pm  |  Updated: April 3, 2013 - 12:35am
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Texas Tech coach Chris Walker reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. West Virginia defeated Texas Tech 66-64. (AP Photo/David Smith)  David Smith
David Smith
Texas Tech coach Chris Walker reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. West Virginia defeated Texas Tech 66-64. (AP Photo/David Smith)
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There is nothing more Chris Walker could have done.

That is what Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said Tuesday about the man who guided the Red Raiders as an interim coach this season, taking the job just three weeks before the start of official practices in October in the wake of a tumultuous saga that ended in the resignation of Billy Gillispie.

Walker, heading a young and inexperienced team, didn’t win a lot of games (11-20, 3-15 in Big 12 play), but support for him grew as the season progressed, both from fans and from the players on his roster.

“Chris Walker is a good young man,” Hocutt said. “There is nothing more he could have done. I think the world of Chris Walker. But the proven track record of success is something Tubby Smith brought to us that no other candidate did.

“Chris Walker will have the opportunity to be a head coach, and when that day comes, Chris Walker is going to be a very successful head coach and do a tremendous job.”

Walker wanted the permanent position. He believed he had earned it by the way he led his team through a season that could have been ripe for distractions. He saw the Red Raiders improve by season’s end, bolstering its scoring average in the second half of Big 12 play and winning a game in the conference tournament for the first time since 2010.

“My goal,” Walker said after Tech lost to Kansas in the quarterfinals March 14, “was to make sure that I made those guys the best men, the best students and the best players they could be. And I honestly believe that we achieved all three of those things.”

Walker did not return a message left by the Avalanche-Journal on Tuesday.

Tech point guard Josh Gray has been most vocal in his support of Walker, who served for 17 seasons as a college assistant at six different schools before being tabbed Tech’s interim coach last season.

Gray posted a picture of himself and Walker on his Twitter account Tuesday with the caption, “He guided me when the vision was blurry and corrected me when I was wrong (...) forever will be my (No.)1 coach.”

That ability to relate to players is what a sizable portion of the fan base behind Walker believed could make him successful in the permanent position. That along with the recruiting acumen that helped him land the likes of Gray and Aaron Ross (a former ESPN150 recruit who was sidelined by a knee injury this season), while drawing strong interest from McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier, who committed Tuesday to SMU.

But despite recently hiring Kliff Kingsbury — a 33-year-old with no head coaching experience and only three seasons as an offensive coordinator — to run the football program and a baseball coach in Tim Tadlock who had never been a Division I head coach, Tech wasn’t ready to make that same leap of faith when it came to the basketball program.

Hocutt said finding “a nationally respected leader, an individual who has experienced success at the highest levels” was one of the main criteria in Tech’s search for the next coach. The school found those qualities in Smith, the veteran with a national championship on his resume.

Smith said he’s known Walker “for some time,” and he’s had experience taking over for an interim coach. Smith at Minnesota replaced “a good friend” in Jim Molinari, who had assumed an interim position seven games into the 2006-07 season when Dan Monson resigned.

“I know how tough it is because I’ve seen people go through that,” Smith said.

So on Tuesday, Tech’s new coach professed gratitude for the man who came before him.

“I’m hearing nothing but great things about you guys and the energy and effort that you guys have been putting in,” Smith said, turning his attention to the Tech players attending his news conference. “And through the leadership you had from Chris Walker, I know we can build on that.”

nick.kosmider@lubbockonline.com

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Hocutt didn't make this call

I can't bring myself to believe that Hocutt made the call to hire Tubby. It just seems like others in the university's administration building told Kirby who the new coach was going to be.

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Coach Walker

Do you like snow. I understand there is a school in Rhode Island that has an opening because their ex-coach was similar to Bobby Knight.

Good luck Coach Walker. I hope you bail as soon as you can and find a achool that wants you and does not have the politics of Texas Tech.

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feaco: Rhode Island?

If you mean Rutgers, that's in New Jersey.

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Oops

Thank you Blake. I did mean Rutgers. I guess Chris Christie would be upset if I moved him to Rhode Island.

I do hope that Coach Walker ends up in a good place because I think he deserves it.

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We got work to do....

Well, hell, you cant blame Kirby. Our mens's basketball program is different from both the football and baseball programs in that at least they were somewhat stable programs and decent won-loss records these past 6 yrs. The basketball program has had nothing but ups and downs and alot of bad publicity these past 6 yrs. With the disaster of BG this yr Kirby HAD the responsibility to stabilize the program with the next hire. Walker may or may not have been a better choice. But what he wouldve been was a GAMBLE. I am sure the BOR and Hance let Kirby know a "gamble" was not to be on the table. Thus we take so long to select the new coach, but do get the possible very best one available at the time. He will stabilize the program and get it respectful once again within couple of yrs. We will make the NCAA and/or NIT couple of times and then we go from there in a few years. Keep up with Coach Walker's whereabouts as we may visit with him more a few years down the road. And if Keith Frazier aint smart enough to come to the school he really wanted to come to then fine- we can live without him. In fact if you aint all in with coach Smith then I guess this is where you get off cause we got work to do and we only want people here who wanna be here!

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Tubby is a gamble

Tubby is just as much a gamble as Walker just in different ways. What the reasons were that Minnesota went in another direction is not known. But why did they decide to go elsewhere, when they were in the Tournament 3 of the last 6 years. There are questions and that makes this is a high risk hire. If we don't significantly improve under Tubby we will be in a much deeper hole, because if a well respected coach can't succeed here who can. Going for experience has cost us another year in recruiting. So after next year the depth of the team will be really thin. Two good players, and then quite a drop-off. Tubby will have to be successful recruiting for him to last long.

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Kirby Hocutt - interviewed on

Fox 34 newscast Tuesday evening at nine - " I'm sure we've made the WRONG, er, right hire here. "

Your gut is correct, Gulf Coast Raider.

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