Guffrie Smith assigned his son, Tubby, a chore and the time frame he wanted it to be completed.
That’s how current Texas Tech men’s head basketball head coach Tubby Smith learned an abundance about leadership from his father, an ex-military man and wounded veteran.
With the different assignments in the military, Guffrie taught his son the importance of doing your own job along with the importance of teamwork.
Smith shared these lessons from his father, along with countless others he’s picked up in his 39 years as a coach, when he visited Washington, D.C. last week.
Along with Smith were USA Basketball women’s national team and Connecticut women’s coach Geno Auriemma, assistant coach for the USA Basketball men’s national team and Syracuse men’s coach Jim Boeheim along with NCAA men’s coaches Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh), Tom Izzo (Michigan State) Kevin Ollie
(Connecticut) and Jay Wright (Villanova). They participated in the Hoops for Troops Leadership seminar, put together by USA Basketball, the NBA and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Moderated by ESPN’s college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, the panel discussion centered around the importance of dynamic leadership to build winning teams.
“It was impressive to get a chance to speak to a lot of troops around the world,” Smith said. “That’s why it’s so special when you’re invited to do something like that. To share your leadership and expertise with coaches at that level is really a great honor.”
After the panel discussion, the coaches spent the day in DC meeting with military officials and personnel and took a tour of the White House where they met President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
“It was good to be there, knowing that President Obama is our nation’s first African American president,” Smith said. “That was really special. It was my first opportunity to meet him. I was very impressed. I had my picture taken with him and Vice President Joe Biden.”
He also met Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a Minnesota native.
“We had some things to talk about there,” said Smith, who coached the Gophers from 2007-13.
Smith left the nation’s capitol impressed with Gen. Dempsey.
“He’s really concerned about the transition and transformation of his troops when the military starts to downsize,” Smith said. “He has the foresight that their troops are a lot like our athletes. They’re about the same age group and are being trained to do a certain thing that will all of a sudden no longer be there. How do we make that transition?”
In order to help, the coaches were asked to partner, along with their student athletes, with troops in their community and surrounding areas to spend time with them and help them cope with changes.
Instead of just waving goodbye and saying he wishes them well, Smith said Dempsey wants to help the troops grow and become leaders even after their military careers are over.
And he believes no one is better than a college coach to offer ideas and solutions in this area.
With graduation upon us, two of the four Red Raider seniors have hired agents — Jaye Crockett and Dejan Kravic.
Smith makes sure his players have a grasp of what their goals are.
“Not just basketball goals but career goals,” he said. “What you want to do with your life. I spend a lot of time with our athletes making them write down their goals.”
While Smith was able to share his thoughts, he also learned a thing or two from his colleagues. Before every practice this next season, Smith wants to implement Ollie’s challenge circle — where the team gathers in a circle at midcourt with the basketball and one player throws the ball to another and challenges him in a fundamental area to help him get better.
“I learned why these coaches are so successful,” Smith said. “They use different techniques to help their team and players, to motivate them or to do a lot of things. Not many people are privy to that. Some times you just have to let your ego down and say, ‘That’s good stuff.’”
This wasn’t Smith’s first experience with this type of event.
In 2006, he went to Kuwait as part of Operation Hardwood II where he, along with 12 others, coached a military team in a basketball tournament.
Smith and his wife Donna stayed an extra half-day in DC to meet with five members of Congress who are the TTU System’s champions: Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Rep. Mike Conaway, Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Rep. Roger Williams.
Smith ended his time in the capitol with a luncheon with key Texas Tech alumni in Washington D.C. He hopes his players at Texas Tech accompany him on his next visit to the White House, saying that winning a national championship is “our dream and goal here.”
He took Kentucky to the White House after winning the 1998 national championship.
“It was a great experience,” Smith said. “Bill Clinton was the president at the time. I had a chance to speak and give him a Kentucky jersey. I had my basketball family as well as my blood family there with me. That’s what made the 1998 trip such a great experience.”
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