GC, Billy Reed welcome Tubby Smith on Sept. 26By ANDY RUSSELL Sports Editor
When I ask, “Who are some great college basketball coaches?” who comes to mind? Perhaps your thoughts jump to John Calipari, whose .770 winning percentage is third among active coaches. Maybe you think of Roy Williams, who, at the University of North Carolina, has an eye-popping 225-62 record with two national titles (2005 and 2009).
My mind doesn’t wander to the statistical success, nor the shiny Division I names (Tar Heels, Cats, Longhorns, Buckeyes), nor the multi-million dollar contracts. I tend to think of a great coach as someone who helps the players in the classroom, puts his family rst, lends a hand to his community and then, only then, teaches his boys basketball; my mind leads me through the millions of dollars and scandal and leaves me right at the feet of Orlando “Tubby” Smith.
Smith grew up in Scotland, Md. and was the sixth of 17 kids. Smith was a natural and gifted athlete, taking part in basketball, football and track during his high school days, earning all-state honors in basketball.
Upon graduating he inked a scholarship deal with the University of Maryland but, due to a coaching change, his scholarship was rescinded. He was offered a scholarship by High Point College (now High Point University), where he lettered for four years. His oncourt performance earned him an All-Carolina conference selection during his senior year, despite playing for his third head coach during his time there.
Not only did Smith excel on the court and in the classroom, but he also met his future wife, Donna, during his time at High Point. He graduated from High Point with a B.S in Health and Physical Education.
Coming out of college, Smith wanted his shot and was given his rst coaching opportunity at a place very close to home: Great Mills High School, Smith’s own high school. He spent four years there and amassed a 46-36 record. This was his rst coaching opportunity after a brief time in the Air Force, so his record was very respectable.
After this he stopped at Hoke County High School in North Carolina for two years where he went 28-18, another respectable mark. High School coaching wasn’t enough for Smith, who aspired to do something more with what he had been given. His rst opportunity to prove himself came at a school that many became familiar with this past year during the NCAA Tournament: Virginia Commonwealth University. Smith took an assistant position under his former High Point coach J.D. Barnett. Smith was part of an extremely successful run at VCU and took away more than knowledge of the game. From it he cultivated a great friendship with David Hobbs, who would later coach under Smith at Kentucky.
Smith also had assistant coaching stops at the University of South Carolina in 1986 under George Felton (whom Smith would bring in later to Kentucky as well) and at the University of Kentucky under head coach Rick Pitino. Pitino brought Smith in to help with the rebuilding of a traditional power that had been hit with NCAA probations.
Smith gained his rst opportunity as a head coach at the University of Tulsa in 1991. The Golden Hurricanes were extremely successful under Smith, with a 79-43 record from ’91 to ’95 in a tough Missouri Valley Conference. Smith made two appearances with the Golden Hurricanes in the Sweet 16 in 1994 and 1995. In 1995, Smith made national headlines by becoming the rst African-American head coach at the University of Georgia. He lit a re under the program and was instantly a hit: he led the Dawgs to the rst back-to-back 20-plus win seasons in school history and to a Sweet 16 in 1996.
On May 12, 1997, Smith gained what every college coach wants, the most scrutinized coaching job on the face of the planet and the worst love-hate relationship with the most ckle fans in all of college basketball: the head coaching position at the University of Kentucky. Smith took over for Pitino, who skipped town and rode the money-train to Boston to coach the Celtics.
Smith was inheriting a team that had just won the National Title in 1996 and repeated in appearance in the game in 1997, however falling short to Arizona. Smith ignored the fact that many of those players left for the NBA and took his team all the way to their seventh title in school history. However, this win proved to be a bad omen as Smith would go on to coach at UK without reaching a Final Four for the rest of his tenure.
Forget the fact that Smith compiled a 263-83 record, ve SEC Tournament Titles and the 2003 Naismith Coach of the Year: UK fans want Championships, and Smith only deliv- Smith Continued from page 6 ered once.
In March of 2007, Smith resigned from his post at UK. On the same day, Smith accepted the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota. Many saw this as a rebuilding job for a program that had not lived up to expectations. This was a program with considerably less pressure from the media, boosters and fans, a great t for the “ve-year plan.”
Smith is still in his position at Minnesota and has made the Gophers a factor in the Big Ten. He has been to the NCAA Tournament twice with the Gophers in 2009 and 2010 and fostered some top 25 recruiting classes as well.
Slice it any way you like, but Smith is a winner: no matter where or when. You can’t deny it because the numbers speak for themselves: 79-43 at Tulsa, 45-19 at Georgia, 263-83 at Kentucky and 80-53 at Minnesota. These numbers are just the wins, not to mention the NCAA Tournament appearances, conference wins and awards and coaching awards.
Against all odds, Tubby Smith will succeed. However, a great coach is more than a coach: he is a great man. Smith was highly involved with the Lexington Community while at UK: The Tubby Smith Foundation has raised well over $1.5 million dollars for underprivileged children. His wife Donna was very active in the community and was a big proponent of education in centers around Lexington.
Smith did all of this while battling one of lifes great issues: cancer. Just this past spring Smith con- rmed having surgery for prostate cancer. He said he was “feeling great” and “cancer free” after the procedure in late April at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. What can’t Tubby do?
You can’t dene a college coach simply by what he accomplishes on the court. Take that approach and Tubby Smith was an excellent coach, teacher and ballplayer.
Dene him by what he did off the court: not only for the young men that he coached, but the lives that he touched, the players that he changed and the minds that he molded, then he is an exceptional coach. Scratch that, an exceptional man.
I personally would like to invite you to come hear the personal story of one of college basketball’s alltime greats, Tubby Smith, as he tells his story of personal courage, character and integrity at the Billy Reed speaker series: Conversations with Champions on Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the John L. Hill Chapel.
I promise, you will leave with a better knowledge of a man who shaped the modern game of basketball and who touched many lives. You might even catch a glimpse of those infamous “Tubby eyes.”