Saturday, May 19, 2007

Orlando, You're Not In Kentucky Anymore Vol. 1, P.1

Would-be Gophers basketball savior Orlando "Tubby" Smith has received a hero's welcome in the Twin Cities. Deservedly so. To all Gopher fans assuming Tubby's ring and big-name value will bring the top recruits to the Land of Lakes: It's just not that simple.

Perhaps this is an extreme analogy, but it proves a point. Tubby, like every other big-time college coach, was in hot pursuit of West Virginia's Patrick Patterson, a mega recruit that could be a one-and-done athlete like Greg Oden. Patterson had all but signed with Tubby at Kentucky before the rabid fanbase in the bluegrass state ran our savior off.

Patterson and Houston point guard Jai Lucas were expected to sign with Tubby in Kentucky. A couple months later, both have signed--neither with Tubby. Lucas went to Florida, where playing time will be availalble. Patterson ended up signing with Kentucky and Billy Gillespie, a man with no national championship on his resume and a track record only of rebuilding programs, not winning big. Tubby tried, according to the Lexington Herald Leader, to lure Patterson to Minny.

As for Patterson's recruitment, it had plenty of downs and ups and dizzying spins. A big dip came when former UK Coach Tubby Smith came to feel unwanted and left for Minnesota. "I was a little upset with what happened to Tubby," Tywanna Patterson, the player's mother, said.

Then Smith called the Pattersons aweek ago.

"Just to say hello, how are you doing" said Tywanna, who added a topic Smith brought up. "You know, it's warm here in Minnesota, and I could sure use Patrick. From his voice, you could tell that he missed us."

The December wind-chill in Kentucky compared to Minnesota aside, Tubby is going to need more than his name to turn around the sunken Gophers ship.