Monday, July 2, 2007

Kentucky Faithful Discuss Tubby's Recruiting Ability

I'm not going to editorilize on the topic at hand, but I want to relay to Minnesota fans what Kentucky-nation is saying about Coach Tubby Smith. They've taken the opportunity, now that Billy Gillespie has had some success recruiting for Big Blue, to open up the "Tubby Smith is a bad recruiter" can of worms. questioned Tubby's tenacity. And the always even-keeled A Sea of Blue lent considerable space to answering a question that won't go away for Kentucky fans. Why did Orlando Tubby Smith get the reputation of being a less than stellar recruiter?

First, from Scout's Kentucky Report

Rival coaches say it’s not hard to see why Gillispie has been so successful. They merely point to his work ethic. They say he’s everywhere on the recruiting scene and never misses a chance to see a recruit or contact a recruit. He’s not afraid to make early decisions on players -- something Smith didn’t like to do -- and he will not back off talented players who are being touted as potential early defectors to the NBA.

Those same coaches, as well as recruiting analysts, are careful not to criticize Smith’s work ethic. However, one has to wonder if Smith was as relentless on the recruiting trail as what Gillispie has been.

Gillespie has had quite the beginning to his tenure in Kentucky. He inked Patrick Patterson, a West Virginia standout who by many accounts was poised to attend UK to play for Tubby. But Gillespie has piled on the good news.

Five-star DeAndre Liggins of the 2008 class has given a verbal. Four-star Alex Legion of the 2007 class is on board. And Dakotah Euton, a 5-star talent in the 2010 class has also agreed to come play for Gillespie. There are others, too, but that gives you an idea why Kentucky-nation is quite pleased with Gillespie's progress on the recruiting front.

So, A Sea of Blue attempts to answer the question of why Tubby is perceived to be a lesser recruiter..

Before answering, the blog lays out five popular theories: that Smith is lazy, that he doesn't like to recruit, he puts too much on his assistants, his coaching style keeps kids away and he simply gets outworked.

I think there is much more to it than the simplistic explanations offered above. Most of these explanations seem easy to dismiss. For example, I don't think anyone can reasonably suggest Coach Smith was lazy – hard work was his stock in trade. Putting too much on his assistants? More likely a symptom than the problem. Coaching style? Maybe, but not likely the major reason. Outworked? Possibly, but not demonstrably. The most likely reason appears to be that Coach Smith didn't love to recruit. I can't offer definitive proof of that, but there is some evidence out there that he actually doesn't like recruiting that much.

The evidence, A Sea of Blue admits, is relatively weak. One article, an unabashedly pro-Tubby article, from the Atlanta Journal Constitution suggests simply that Tubby prefers to coach--crazy, that a coach would prefer coaching!!--and that Smith needs able, aggressive assistants surrounding him, something he may have in the form of Vince Taylor and Ron Jirsa. The second piece of evidence A Sea of Blue cites--and, again, the blogger admits the evidence is weak--comes from Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis. Davis writes that Tubby's disdain for recruiting is an "open secret."

Smith is as good a bench coach as there is in the game, and I have never heard a bad word uttered about him by his peers. (Trust me, that's rare.) But he also has a well-earned reputation for being disorganized. It's an open secret he doesn't like recruiting, which is why the program's strategy never seems to have a plan B, C and D. As a result, Smith often has to scramble for mid-level players after his primary targets head elsewhere. As for the way he runs his own team, well, ask Tubby on a Wednesday what time practice begins on Friday, and there's a good chance he won't have an answer.

A Sea of Blue goes on to point to Tubby's reluctance in bringing in top-25 prospects, who might only be around for one year before jumping ship to the NBA. The blogger also notes the complexity of Tubby's offensive and defensive schemes--something I'll try to break down for you at some point using my limited knowledge gained from an AAU coaching gig.

In the end, as I've said here before, it doesn't much matter what Kentucky fans think of Coach Smith now that he's in MInnesota. I've also said recently, and it deserves repeating, that the jury is still out--heck it hasn't even been paneled--on Tubby's ability to recruit in Minnesota. Time will tell.


Truzenzuzex said...

Thank you for the link, but I do want to quibble with your suggestion that I was opening up the "Tubby Smith is a bad recruiter" can of worms.

I actually don't, and never did, believe he was a bad recruiter. The point of my article was that Smith often self-limited his recruiting in more ways than one.

First, he was reluctant to recruit "one and done" players. I am speculating that this is because a) it takes longer to learn Tubby's offensive and defensive schemes, and b) Tubby was a bit disadvantaged by his own forthrightness -- he would not lie to recruits about the learning curve in his system, and most "stud" recruits don't want to take all that time -- they want to be seen on TV running up and down the floor, dunking or shooting 3's.

Tubby preferred a more cerebral, more dedicated player who would wait his turn in the system, and these guys tended not to be 5-star recruits. Kentucky fans were very frustrated when we rarely even seriously recruited the big boys, and Smith refused to try to ram square pegs into round holes, or change his style. I was not among them, but as I said in the comments, that put me firmly in the minority.

There is evidence, as I have stated, that Tubby didn't like recruiting, but what I didn't delve into in my post is that I don't believe it was actual discomfort with recruiting itself. Smith liked to recruit a certain way, and that way was to develop a close relationship with his potential player's family, a la Patrick Patterson.

This is often difficult to do among the very elite recruits, as they are very jaded and full of themselves. But players like Jodie Meeks and Derrick Jasper epitomize the ideal Smith recruit. I look a bit more at this in the comments further down.

I can almost guarantee his system will work better for Minnesota than UK. Minnesota fans will not complain when Tubby recruits his system, especially 4 years from now when he has you guys competing for Big 10 championships and in the NCAA's every year.

Thanks again for the link, and the excellent post. I think you, as well as some UK fans, misunderstood my missive in some ways. Blame my poor communications skills, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I must take issue with the most blatant erroneous issue (excuse) that you offer -- that Smith shied away from players with one year and the NBA on their mind. In some instances, it was more of a failure to recognize potential talent. This is validated by three prominent players (each of whom earned All American honors during 2007) and who wanted to come to Kentucky. Two of whom played or will play four years and one three years -- Corey Brewer tried out for UK at Memorial Coliseum and was turned down by Smith; Derick Byers wanted to transfer to UK and was turned down by Smith and then opted for Vanderbilt; and finally, Chris Lofton was termed "too slow" and turned down by Smith. These three definitely suggest an inability to evaluate talent and potential.

PJS said...

Tru, I wasn't implying that you were going out of your way to bash Tubby. I was trying to say that 1) Kentucky fans continue to breakdown Tubby's recruiting and 2) I thought you were fair in your post. Not all Kentucky fans are 'fair' to Tubby, in my opinion. You do a good job over there of presenting balanced takes.

Truzenzuzex said...

Thanks, PJS. I got ya.

You have a talent for understatement when you say "Not all Kentucky fans are 'fair' to Tubby." God knows, around the Bluegrass finding anything but criticism of Smith is more than a little challenging. Just the nature of the beast.

Anonymous said...

If you open your eyes and still don't see what a poor coach you have gotten in Minnesota, you are a bigger fool then even I thought. Tubby Smith's offense complicated? Complicated? Its freaking non-existent.

Between getting second rate talent for a first rate team, Tubby Smith knows absolutely nothing about offense and not a great deal on defense. He cannot teach big men to set a pick, block out, or protect against a press. He cannot teach even the most basic fundamentals on putting on a press...

Nevermind, You got a Great Coach in Tubby Smith...gag....After all Kentucky Fans know nothing about the Sport of Basketball having the winningest program in the game you knowhasn't taught us a thing about the sport...

Enjoy your Coach. If fact I hope you enjoy him half as much as I'm enjoying you having him instead of UK. UK carried that loser for five seasons before his total lack of ability wore down even UK's tradition.

Ding Dong basketball in Minnesota is dead!! Long live Boringball.

I hope Billy G schedules Minnesota. UK needs some easy wins!!!

Anonymous said...

Here we are, a few months later.

Tubby (and staff) have landed 5 quality recruits. 3 are HS stars and 2 are JuCo guys. All are very talented.

The class is rated Top 10 to 15 range by HoopScoop and Hoopmasters.

Once again, I was right and the UK "fans" were not.

Tubby is THAT good.