Jon Teitel's Coaching Greats: Lamar, Oklahoma and TCU's Billy Tubbs

April 25th, 2012

In the most recent installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN's Jon Teitel caught up with Billy Tubbs, who led three different schools to the NCAA tournament during his career. At TCU Tubbs won 156 games, leading the Horned Frogs to their last NCAA appearance (1998) during his time in Fort Worth. Also to his credit are multiple tournament appearances at both Lamar and Oklahoma, losing to Kansas in the 1988 national title game when at OU. 

Jon Teitel: You were an All-American guard at Lon Morris JC, where you helped the Bearcats to the NJCAA semifinals. How good a player were you back then? 

Billy Tubbs: I was an okay player who played on some good teams. I also played at Lamar where I was an average player at best. 

1979 NCAA tournament (head coach at Lamar)

JT: Clarence Kea had 33 points and a tournament school-record 19 rebounds in 33 minutes in an eight-point upset of Detroit. What made Kea so unstoppable? 

BT: He was a real tough kid who played hard.  He was an undersized post man but was physically and mentally strong. 

JT: Magic Johnson had a triple-double (13 points, 17 rebounds and ten assists) in a win by eventual champion Michigan State. Could you tell at the time that Magic was going to become a star? 

BT: Magic was an All-American that year and it was quite obvious that he was a special player. 

1980 NCAA tournament

JT: Mike Olliver had a tournament school-record 37 points in a one-point win over Weber State on its home court. How much of a home-court advantage did the Wildcats have, and how were you able to hang on for the win? 

BT: Anytime you are playing a ranked team on their home floor it is a big advantage for them, but our guys accepted the challenge.  We had a big lead and barely hung on to win the game, which helped us in the next game. 

JT: Cestrakiah Lewis had 11 points and 11 rebounds in a four-point win over Oregon State, which is still the highest-ranked Division I team ever beaten by Lamar. Where does that win rank among the best in your career? 

BT: That has to be one of the highlights, without question. 

JT: In 1983 after becoming coach at Oklahoma you spent two weeks in intensive care after being hit by a car. How close did you come to dying, and what impact did that incident have on your life (if any)? 

BT: I had a severe concussion and some pelvic injuries so I missed the last several games of the season.  Many people thought that I would never coach again, but I was able to prove that I could make it back to the sideline. 

JT: What are your memories of the 1984 NCAA tournament (Roosevelt Chapman scored 41 points in 40 minutes in a four-point Dayton upset victory)? 

BT: We played pretty well but just could not stop Chapman.  We had a first-round bye which is something I never wanted because they often led to upsets. 

1985 NCAA tournament (at Oklahoma)

JT: Karl Malone had 20 points and 16 rebounds, but Wayman Tisdale made a turn-around eight-foot shot that bounced several times on the rim before going in with three seconds left in a two-point win over Louisiana Tech. Did you think that Tisdale's shot was going in, and was it extra-special to beat Coach Andy Russo after he said you reneged on a contract to play the first-ever game in Louisiana Tech's new arena three years before? 

BT: Russo and I had played against each other back in college but the special thing was just to win the game.  The fact that the shot rolled around the rim for a couple of seconds really helped us because Louisiana Tech did not have a chance to come down the court and respond. 

JT: Keith Lee had 23 points and 11 rebounds in a two-point Memphis victory. How close did you come to winning that game? 

BT: It could have gone either way at the end but Memphis made plays and we did not. 

1987 NCAA tournament

JT: Tim McCalister had 28 points in a three-point win over Pittsburgh after Demetreus Gore and Jerome Lane each missed three-point shots in the final seconds. Did you think that you were headed to overtime? 

BT: I just remember beating them. It was kind of an upset. 

JT: Kevin Gamble had a career-high 26 points (11-13 FG) and made a 21-foot shot with two seconds left in a two-point overtime win by Iowa. Where does Gamble's shot rank among the most clutch you have ever seen? 

BT: The thing I remember is that we ran a good out-of-bounds play that was set up to take a charge, but the ref made a no-call even after our guy got ran over. 

JT: What are your memories of the 1988 NCAA title game (tournament MOP Danny Manning had 31 points and 18 rebounds in a four-point Kansas victory)? 

BT: It was a hard-fought game.  The whole Final Four process was very exhausting, especially talking to the media.  We played the late game on Saturday and I think we were tired by Monday night. 

JT: During a 1989 Oklahoma/Missouri game you picked up the microphone and told your fans to stop throwing things on the floor no matter how bad the referees were. Why did you do that, and would you do the same thing if you had it to do all over again? 

BT: Probably. The refs were the ones who told me to tell the fans to stop throwing stuff. 

JT: What are your memories of the 1989 NCAA tournament (Stacey King had 28 points and ten rebounds in a one-point win over #16-seed ETSU)? 

BT: We were very lucky to win. The only time we had the lead was at the end of the game. 

JT: What are your memories of the 1990 NCAA tournament (Rick Fox scored 23 points and made a leaner off the glass at the buzzer for a two-point North Carolina victory)? 

BT: It was very unusual because even though we were the #1-seed we had to play a great team like North Carolina in the second round (they were the #8-seed).  There were a couple of bad calls late. I could not say it back then, but I can say it now!   

JT: What are your memories of the 1998 NCAA tournament as coach at TCU (Lee Nailon scored 32 points before fouling out in a nine-point loss to Florida State)? 

BT: Florida State played exceptionally well.  We had a good inside game but we were below-average from the perimeter.  We had a really good year but could not get the win. 

JT: You were known for having a high-scoring offense and full-court-pressing defense. How did you decide to use those styles, and why were they so effective? 

BT: I liked to coach that way because that is how I had success as a player (in terms of offense).  I think our defense was always underrated. It was a very hard defense to play against because we tried to cover 100% of the floor.  It was a simple case of risk/reward and was great when it worked for us.  That was how I believe the game should be played, and it attracted attention.  Our fans liked it because it was fun to watch and it helped our recruiting because guys wanted to play for us. We recruited players who could run, jump and shoot.  The main reason I played that style is because we could win that way! 

JT: You are one of a handful of coaches in NCAA history to record 100 wins at three different schools. How were you able to have so much success at so many different programs? 

BT: I considered myself a program-builder: I never inherited a lot of great teams.  I liked to take programs that people said would not succeed and then show them that they could.  When I left Lamar coach Pat Foster inherited a great team and took them to the NCAA tournament. 

JT: Your son Tommy played point guard for you at Oklahoma and was an assistant coach for you at Lamar. What was it like to coach your own son, and how proud are you of all his success? 

BT: It was great to coach Tommy.  However, he is the only player who I ever thought I was unfair to: he probably deserved more playing time.  The 1 thing that hurt Tommy is that I did not want to be like the little league baseball dad who let his son play the entire game...or at least that is what his mother always tells me!
Tubbs is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Mountain West history.

Air Force: Bob Spear (1957-1971) 165-166, 2 NCAA tourneys
Boise State: Bobby Dye (1983-1995) 213-133, 3 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
Colorado State: Jim Williams (1954-1980) 352-293, 4 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title
New Mexico: Dave Bliss (1988-1999) 246-108, 7 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 2-time conference COY
San Diego State: Steve Fisher (1999-present) 258-160, 5 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 1-time national COY, 1-time conference COY
TCU: Billy Tubbs (1994-2002) 156-95, 1 NCAA tourney, 1 conference title, 1-time conference COY
UNLV: Jerry Tarkanian (1973-1992) 509-105, 12 NCAA tourneys, 12 conference titles, 1 NCAA title, 1-time national COY, 8-time conference COY
Wyoming: Everett Shelton (1939-1959) 328-201, 8 NCAA tourneys, 8 conference titles, 1 NCAA title