Monday, November 12, 2007

Guest Post: Tubby's Up And Down Tenure At UK

PJS Note: Tru from A Sea of Blue was kind enough to author this guest post for Gopher fans, giving us an insight into the melodrama that surrounded Tubby Smith's tenure at UK, and what to expect from Tubby Smith on and off the court as his tenure in Minnesota begins. I thank Tru for taking the time to put this together, and highly recommend A Sea of Blue for intelligent discussion of UK basketball.

Guest Post
By Truzenzuzex

Allow me to introduce myself. My blog-name is Truzenzuzex, and I am the proprietor of A Sea of Blue, a University of Kentucky Wildcat blog which is part of the SB Nation group of sports blogs. PJS has been kind enough to ask me to write a guest blog entry for about the former Wildcats and new Golden Gophers coach, Orlando "Tubby" Smith.

I am honored to be asked, and proud to do so. I am sure most of you know Tubby Smith's bio, so I won't recite that at all. What I'd like to do instead is to give you a perspective on how Tubby Smith was perceived here and why, along with some of the things that you may not know about his coaching style, personality, and his tenure in the Bluegrass. When Smith came to Kentucky back in 1998, there were happy people and unhappy people, but mostly happy. I was among the happy -- I wanted Smith. In retrospect, though, he was not a good fit for Kentucky. But we will get to that. Rick Pitino had just won the national championship in 1996, and lost in overtime in the national finals in 1997.

For years, rumors of Pitino's interest in returning to the NBA were rampant around Kentucky, and every year after the season there would be media and fan speculation, denials from Pitino and from the athletic administration and a great deal of hand-wringing around the state. This had been going on for at least 5 consecutive years, and many fans (myself being one of them) were getting tired of this act. Yes, Pitino was a great coach and we were proud to have him, but this constant speculation about when (not if) he was leaving to the NBA was causing some hard feelings, and many of us wished for more stability. We don't take kindly to coaches who use us as a springboard. But who could argue with success? Well, after the 1997 season, Rick Pitino left to coach the Boston Celtics and a quick search was done. Tubby Smith was offered the Kentucky job. Smith was a former Pitino assistant at UK from 1989-1991, and he came to Kentucky after a successful three-year run at Georgia.

Smith was well-received in the Commonwealth, although there were a significant minority of fans (perhaps as many as 20%) who were unhappy with the hire at the time and were very vocal about it. Then came the fateful 1998 season. When Pitino left, he left behind what looked for all the world like a rag-tag crew with some talent, but a lot of holes. That perception turned out to be wrong, as there are no less than 4 NBA draft picks on that team, ultimately. We figured to have a good year, but nobody really expected us to contend for the national championship, let alone win it. But that is what happened.

Of course, the Big Blue Nation was ecstatic, and Tubby Smith was hailed as a kindler, gentler version of Pitino. That perception was short lived, however. Over the ensuing four years, Kentucky found itself in a state of semi-relevance, losing ten games almost every year. Now, that may not sound like that many, but at Kentucky, single-digit loss seasons had long been the norm. Pitino had double-digit losses only once in his tenure, his very first year when UK was on probation. Losing ten games three years in a row was intolerable to many in the Commonwealth despite the changes that were happening in college basketball -- Kentucky simply didn't lose 39 games in 4 years.

The grumbling began anew, and this time it was louder and more widespread. The nickname "Ten Loss Tubby" was created, and found a voice on the budding Internet sports sites. It wasn't as if the team was totally unsuccessful in the post season, even during this tumultuous period. Kentucky went to the final eight once and the Sweet Sixteen twice, even during this run of ten loss seasons. But here in Kentucky, Final Fours are expected and demanded. Smith hadn't been to one in five years, and the grumbling was getting very loud. "For Sale" signs were occasionally found in Smith's yard, and his weekly call-in show was becoming filled with hostile fans demanding answers. 2001-02 is known around Kentucky as "Team Turmoil" for the numerous off-the-court problems and subsequent dismissal or transfer of several high-profile players after the season.

Keep in mind, folks -- this was six years ago. Then came the 2002-03 season. Kentucky went through the pre-season with a loss to an exhibition opponent, and 3 more losses in the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, including to the University of Louisville, a hated rival. By this time, anticipating another ten losses or more and a "below par" year, there were numerous calls for Smith's job all around the commonwealth. Then came the conference schedule, and in the second SEC game of the year on the road at Vanderbilt, something unexpected happened. I'll never forget it as long as I live. The Cats went into the locker room at the half in Nashville down 16 points after being thoroughly outplayed by the Commodores.

That team never returned to play for Kentucky again. What came out of the locker room in Memorial Gymnasium after halftime was a team nobody in Kentucky had ever seen before. The Wildcats came out of the visitor's locker room and emasculated Vanderbilt University's men's basketball team. The huge Vandy lead evaporated in minutes, to be replaced by a 30+ point Kentucky bulge, and by the time the Cats left the floor, there was nothing left of the Commodores. Kentucky's domination of them defensively was beyond rational description, and the Wildcats' offensive efficiency was pure James A. Naismith perfection. It was as if all 12 Wildcats had morphed, Michael J. Fox-like, into Teen Wolf in front of everyone's eyes, and disembowled an entire SEC basketball team in front of the home crowd. It was ... magnificent in it's cruel, utterly merciless efficiency.

Something had clicked in this Wildcat team, a frightful switch had been thrown. The players had bought completely into Tubby Smith's system, and they raged through the SEC doing carnage, crushing good teams by embarrassing margins. That Shermanesque rampage took the traditional UK domination of the SEC was taken to heights previously unknown when they won all the SEC games, and the SEC tournament -- a perfect conference season. It wasn't just that they won, it was the way they won -- the team was utterly indomitable, and it was not unusual to see well-coached opponents simply give up against their onslaught.

Kentucky fans were delighted, yet somehow terrified. How could this have happened? Who was this team, and what had they done with the Wildcats? Kentucky's domination continued as they went into the NCAA tournament ranked #1 in the country by every major service. But an injury to Keith Bogans and a hot Duane Wade ended that run in the final eight against Marquette, ironically enough, in the Twin Cities where Tubby Smith now resides.

Tubby Smith was again a hero after 2003, but that same hard-core minority of 20% or so saw only the failure of the team to get to the Final Four. Discord grew among the hard-core Smith doubters and the Smith supporters, and many vicious Internet flame wars ensued on the message boards. The Smith detractors were forced into retreat, having no answer for the "but for Bogans' injury, we would have won the national championship" argument and the undefeated SEC season. But the very next year, the team again lost to Louisville and flamed out in the Sweet Sixteen, and the fan unhappiness was again quickly to pre-2002 levels. Then came the great recruiting class of 2004. One of the many gripes dissatisfied Kentucky fans had regarding Tubby Smith was uneven recruiting. The members of that 2002-03 team (the Suffocats, as they are known) were largely unheralded players, and despite their success, this alarmed many in the Big Blue Nation. Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Rajon Rondo made the "Smith can't recruit studs" skeptics look like fools, and once again, the supporters and detractors of Tubby Smith clashed angrily.

Locked threads were everywhere in message boards, and wholesale banning of angry members was common. It was a virtual bloody time in Kentucky online fan history. The Tubby Smith radio call-in show began refusing critics access, outraging the Smith detractors even more when they were denied a forum to embarrass a coach they saw as damaging the program.

By this point, anti-Smith sentiment had reached critical mass. There were two camps now firmly entrenched in Kentucky, and hatred began to divide the fan base. That's right, I said "hatred" because that's what it was, and believe it or not, still is. Those who wanted Smith gone fashioned themselves as defenders of Kentucky's basketball heritage, and hated those who were willing to give him a chance. Each accused the other of either racism or race-baiting, and the fan base at Kentucky became bitterly divided. Internet wars were everywhere, and the online community divided itself into Smith supporters and Smith detractors, with very few crossing over into enemy territory except to post outrageous comments and be banned themselves.

The ensuing three years saw many events each group would point to in order to defend their position. There was a pitched battle being waged in Kentucky, brother pitted against brother, in a rancorous civil war with Smith squarely in the center. The Smith detractors mounted a media campaign against him, attempting to run an anti-Tubby Smith ad in the University of Kentucky student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, in June of 2006. This created a firestorm of controversy, and Smith quickly became seen as embattled by the national media.

Many rose to his defense, and notably, some did not. Finally, in March of 2007 after two very poor seasons in a row by Kentucky standards, Tubby Smith left the Wildcats to coach at the University of Minnesota, which of course, you know. Now that you know how (and to some extent, why) he got to the Twin Cities, here are some things you will learn:

** Tubby Smith is a family man above all else. He treats his players more like his kids than anything else, and truly cares about their well-being and future success.

** Smith is not fond of the media. This is one of the many things that generated discontent for him. Smith is a poor public speaker, and he isn't comfortable in a media environment. Because of Kentucky's high national profile in basketball, this was simply not a good thing while he was in the Bluegrass. It will not be near the problem at Minnesota that it was in the Commonwealth.

** Smith's system emphasizes defense. Smith uses a variant of the ball-line defense, which essentially helps closer to the basket, and has the weakness of leaving players open on the wing on a ball reversal for a three-point shot. Played properly, even this can be largely overcome, as the Suffocats dramatically proved, but it takes a level of commitment I have seen only one time.

** Smith employs a variant of the flex offense, and prefers a disciplined, half-court approach. He also professes to want to run to anyone who will listen, but somehow, we never did that very well in Kentucky under Smith after his first year. This is a point of serious contention among Smith detractors and supporters in Kentucky.

** Tubby Smith is an outstanding community member, philanthropist, and all around human being. Even those who hated Smith heart and soul were reluctant to say anything against his character, and for good reason -- their credibility would have vanished. Tubby Smith is a good man.

** Smith is notoriously stubborn. He runs his system, and will do so even if it doesn't work. He will make changes, but they tend to be incremental and on the margins.

** Smith has some strange tendencies in recruiting. He is less about talent than how he thinks a player will fit into his system. He rejects the idea that he can't coach average players to excel. Overall, this will work out better at Minnesota than Kentucky. Kentucky fans expect to recruit on the very highest level, and to always have at least one top 25 player in the class each year. Smith did not recruit the top players in the nation well at Kentucky most of the time he was here, but Minnesota will not normally be involved at that level. That's just a fact of life. Smith recruits players in the 30-120 range very well.

** Smith values loyalty above talent. If a player has worked hard in his system and stayed with him, he will reward that as long as he is in the same universe as other players, talent-wise. It is a laudable characteristic, but it does have its drawbacks, and caused significant consternation in the Bluegrass. Perhaps it will work out better at Minnesota.

** Tubby Smith is not a subtle man. He is just what you see -- no more, no less. He is a basketball coach, not an innovator or a deep thinker. But he will be successful, because he knows how to be successful and has done it everywhere he has been.

** Smith seems to be satisfied with a lower level of success than Kentucky fans. He would often laud his many trips to the Sweet Sixteen as an accomplishment, and he never figured out that most Kentucky fans see that not as an achievement, but as a failure. There was simply a huge disconnect between Smith's expectations for his team and the expectations of the fans.

Many of you may wonder why Kentucky would put so much pressure on a fine coach like Smith, and I can tell you that the very fact you ask that question disqualifies you from any understanding of the answer. An Alabama football fan would not ask that question. Neither would a Florida football fan, or a Notre Dame football fan, or a North Carolina basketball fan.

This isn't a put down -- just because most Minnesota fans aren't pathologically obsessed with the team does not cast any aspersions on their character. To the contrary. Many of you will note that some Kentucky fans are blaming Smith for our recent loss to Gardner-Webb. If this surprises you, it is simply because the gulf between your perception of college basketball and that of Kentucky fans is much wider than you might believe.

Fortunately, this thinking doesn't represent the thinking of most Kentucky fans, but only a few who would gladly blame Tubby Smith for global warming, high gas prices and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa if they could find even the thinnest connection. If Kentucky does not win a national championship within a few years, these same people will claim that Tubby Smith permanently destroyed Kentucky basketball to the extent that nobody could ever resurrect it again, or has set us back so far that it will take decades of futility to overcome. Whatever.

I think you know what to think of such people without me having to suggest it. I am sorry for the length of this piece, but quite frankly, the Tubby Smith tenure in Lexington was a complicated affair, filled with love, hate, pathos, ecstasy, quixotic angst, and almost every other human emotion you can describe on a very large scale. If it makes Kentucky fans seem less than totally sane, I suppose that is a fair conclusion -- we are nationally renowned for our obsessiveness with college basketball, and Tubby Smith had no small part in bringing that obsession to the forefront of the national consciousness.

With all that said, keep in mind that this is just the perception of one Kentucky fan, and we are hardly a homogeneous group. We love our college basketball here, and we love the tradition that Kentucky represents, and the place that buys us in the national spotlight. Kentucky is not famous for a lot of things, but we are proud of our national celebrity in college basketball, and most UK fans are determined to defend the place we have carved for ourselves.

In the end, it seems in retrospect that Tubby Smith was always a poor fit for Kentucky. There were simply too many inconsistencies between how Smith saw the Wildcats, and how the fans see them. Part of it was caused by having to follow the now-legendary Pitino success, and part of it was just a disconnect between the realities of Smith and the fan base. But now both Smith and UK have moved on, hopefully both to better places.

The lingering resentments represent nothing more than the lunatic fringe, something that every large fan base must unhappily deal with. I wish you well, Golden Gophers, and Tubby Smith as well. I think he will do you proud, and I think you will enjoy each other.


lurker said...

Very interesting stuff, Truz. I'm curious, what were the '20 percent' upset about when Tubby was first hired. He was a coach with a UK pedigree and had success at Georgia and Tulsa. I think he had as much success in those stops as Billy G. has had, and he's seemed to be welcomed by all UK fans. Do you have any insight, Truz?

Chris said...

I find it entirely funny that some Kentucky fans are blaming Tubby for Gardner-Webb.

Erik said...

I'm still blown away by the "ten-loss Tubby" label. As evidenced by KU's loss to Gardner-Webb and both MSU's and tOSU's losses to DII teams this year, there is incredible parity in the college game today.

Every powerhouse school (UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, etc.) has seen their popularity and success ebb and flow. Maybe I'm cynical and I shouldn't judge, but it seems more than absurd and a bit foolish to think your team is going to go to the final four every year. It's not 1920 anymore.

J. Lichty said...

I'm curious, what were the '20 percent' upset about when Tubby was first hired.

Probably his race. Unfortunately, that still matters in the South to a minority of folks down there. Will not be a problem in the PC atmosphere of the Twin Cities.

Truzenzuzex said...

Lurker: A couple of things -- first, keep in mind my numbers are an educated guess. They may be off either way be a significant amout.

Second, although he was an assistant at UK, he was not a "name" coach. Also, he didn't have the kind of experience normally associated with a UK coach. Also, some questioned his recruiting at Georgia. And of course, some opposed him because of his race.

The perception that Gillispie was welcomed more than Smith is largely a media-driven fantasy. Remember that the circumstances of these takeovers are wildly different -- when Tubby took over, it was from a legend. It's hard to fill a legend's shoes.

Gillispie's situation is quite a bit easier, at least from the outset.

Finally, Gillispie is probably nearly as opposed at Smith was. Some former Smith supporters have reflexively opposed him, and I suspect some in this group of passing highly negative rumors about him to a number of middle and upper-management executives throughout the commonwealth. That, or perhaps some deranged Louisville fans.

Chris: So do I.

j. lichty: Race still matters everywhere to a minority of people, not just in the South.

Jenny said...

Hey Tru, this was an outstanding piece. I'm a regular reader/lurker over on SoB and like many UK fans, I've struggled to explain just what exactly the situation was with Tubby. This hit the nail on the head.

Erik: Just an admin point - we're UK, Kansas is KU :)

Truzenzuzex said...


Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

goof houlihan said...

I'd say the 20% wanted Billy Donovan, a guy that appeared to have more Pitino characteristics than did Tubby, and without some of Pitino's hubris.

Tubby was simply unable to be up front with the press and was caught out in "misstatements" several times.

Tubby viewed UK as a reward for all the work he'd put in to get there. As a result, he lacked the single minded dedication one sees in an Adolph Rupp, or Coach K, or a Dean Smith, or Coach Wooden, or yes, in Billy Gillispie. He was not "a man possessed" as SI called Pitino. UK hoops fans are people possessed.

Tubby wasn't a good administrator or manager, and his tolerance of poor performing assistants was part of his downfall at UK.

"Race" was the simplistic answer thrown out by the national media. However, towards the last two years of his tenure, even the national media began to see the man behind the curtain for the underperformer he'd become. Tubby was one of the highest paid college coaches in the profession, yet his success on the court or off the court did not appear to match that rate of pay.

Toby Ritt said...

word around MPLS is Tubby has already drawn the ire of PJ's favorite Star Tribune Grandpa by not agreeing to join him on the Sports Huddle on sunday morning...
Sid was apparently overheard saying, well apparently Tubby doesnt think that this is important enough to call in, or something to that effect...
My guess is Clem was kind enough to give hime a heads up...

Anonymous said...

I think 20% is a vast overstatement. Tru is right, it is only a guess. I would say 5% to 10%.

One thing we should all note is that UK has never fired a coach. Coaches at UK stay for a long time. UK makes its coaches wealthy and famous.

Tubby did a poor job at UK. Any way you slice it he did a poor job. Here is an analogy you Big 10 fans can grasp. Imagine what would happen to the coach at OSU if they went 4 or 5 consecutive years without reaching a New Years Day bowl game? That is equivelant to what happened to UK under Tubby.

Remember, UK made him wealthy and famous. He has the greatest college fan base in the US. He had the greatest venue and facilities to offer recruits. Instead of embracing this, he was very erratic at recruiting and eventually seemed to lose any passion about it.

We know this. UK was is off when Tubby left then when he came. Tubby is much better off.

To be fair, you will have success with Tubby. You do not have to worry about probation or things not being handled with integrity.

Anonymous said...

And the "for sale" signs in Tubby's yard is urban legend. Never happened.

From The Barn said...

Two things:
1. A little big of fun at wikipedia reveals that Kentucky fans once criticized the team for being too focused on winning.

2. How many McDonald's All- Americans are on the current Kentucky roster?

Anonymous said...

I was an admirer and defender of Tubby for many years. I wanted to see a man of his character succeed. The comments of him being a good coach, but a less than skilled administrator are on target by many indications. The scope of the UK program, however, magnified those weaknesses. He finished 2nd or 3rd on many recruits and the damage of the nonrecruitment of Chris Lofton was inestimable. He did not leave the cupboard completely bare, but the consistent commentary from many national media in recent years was a lack of talent. I admired Tubby's class and wanted him to win more, but there was a cumulative effect of missed opportunities that made defending him become more difficult. In the end, the situation had all the hallmarks of getting worse before it would get better. A change was the easiest solution for both parties. Because he is a good coach, he will bring Minn to success levels not seen for a while. He will have the autonomy there to do it. Race is the cause celebre by some for his departure, but UK fans just want to win--period. Even in his final radio shows, people were still calling in and saying how much they wanted him to stay the coach. Of course the media doesn't mention those or the reception held for him and Donna this summer in Lexington attended by hundreds of his friends and admirers. The longest period without a final four trip was during his tenure. Moderate success was simply not enough.

PJS said...

Toby Ritt,

Um, Grandpa Sid is by far NOT my favorite MPLS/St. Paul columnist. But for Tubby to decline Sid's invitation indicates his reluctance to cooperate with the media. Sid is the biggest U of M booster around, and would certainly be easier on Tubby than anyone else.

Goof, perhaps this is showing my ignorance when it comes to Dilly D's background, but what had he accomplished as a head man when Tubby was hired?

PJS said...

That was supposed to read 'Billy D's background.'

Chris said...

pjs, Billy D. was too "green" to be hired by UK in 1997. He had two years experience as head coach at Marshall(18-9, 17-11) and one year at Florida(13-17). There are a few UK fans out there that like to point fingers with hind sight. Tubby had success at Tulsa and Georgia taking them to the sweet16. Billy had not even been to the post season as a head coach at this point.

Paladin said...

Writing like this is proof positive that aSoB is the best Kentucky basketball site on the Net.

PJS said...

That's what I was driving at, chris. I obviously wasn't following UK's coaching search in 1997, but I didn't think Billy D. was in the running.

Paladin, you're right. There was a reason I asked Tru to do this Guest Post. I have tremendous respect for ASOB.

Anonymous said...

Tru, I'm glad you pointed out his stubbornness. His flat out refusal to change up his coaching staff in any way always irked me. In a sense loyalty is a great thing to have, but not at the detriment of your team.

Truzenzuzex said...

from the barn: That criticism of the 1978 team to which you refer was 100% by the media. The fans did not feel that way whatsoever.

In fact, the UK fans were largely responsible for this attitude. Joe B. Hall was under a great deal of pressure at the time, having missed the post-season two out of the previous 4 years.

PJS: You are exactly right. Donovan left after the 1994 season, did two years at Marshall, and was only in his second season at Florida when Pitino left.

Donovan was far too inexperienced to ever be considered. Tubby Smith was a virtual greybeard compared to him, having left Pitino's staff for Tulsa in 1991.

Also, it was an honor and a privilege for me to guest post on this blog. I hope you will return the favor sometime.

Anonymous said...

A small correction to this otherwise outstanding piece: Smith was coach at Georgia for two years, not three.

Anonymous said...

Tubby won 1 NCAA title, 5 SEC titles, 5 SECT championships, 76% of his games and 72% of his NCAA games at UK.

His 10 teams yielded the 4th Most W in college basketball and 5th best W-L (%) record.

Poor job???

Tubby hated the Kentucky media. Not true at Georgia or Tulsa.

There are 2 McDonalds A-A on UK this year.

There was 1 McD A-A (Turner) on the 1997-98 team.

Anonymous said...

The 4 Sale sign after losses ABSOLUTELY DID HAPPEN.

So did the brick through his window in 2000 (or 2001).

Absolute facts.

Anonymous said...

Nice job. Tough to understand the UK fan frame of mind but the history helps.

One question though - before Pitino how often did KY make it to the Final Four or win the championship ?

Anonymous said...

I wish Tubby well, although at times I have to admit being frustrated with him. There is no finer person and you folks in Minnesota are fortunate to have him. Good luck to Minnesota and to Tubby personally!

Richard (UK fan)

PJS said...

It's really good to see all these well wishes from Kentucky fans directed at Tubby. It was only a few short months ago when the news broke that Tubby was coming to Minny that every single U of M forum was bombarded with anti-Tubby sentiment.

Maybe it's a sign that time heals wounds or that Tru's Guest Post brought a different brand of UK fan to at least this U of M forum.

Tubby has stated publicly he wishes UK well. And Minnesota fans do to--though we look forward to the day Tubby has the Gophers ahead of the Wildcats in the polls!

PJS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Truzenzuzex said...

Anonymous: RE: Kentucky's final fours and national championships pre-Pitino:

9 final fours and 5 national championships. We now have 13 and 7, 3 FF and 1 NC for Pitino, 1 FF and 1 NC for Tubby Smith.

Truzenzuzex said...


A Sea of Blue does tend not to be favored by Smith's detractors. That's because we have a record of excoriating the ones that go over the top.

I think most rational Kentucky fans liked Tubby Smith and wish him nothing but success there.

If UM gets ranked above UK, there will be consternation for sure. But it will become outrage if UM starts beating UK.

Then, Gillispie might be looking for a new gig. :-)

Anonymous said...

UK was 108-53 from 1985 thru 1989. (Not on probation then) That's 22-11 average record.

So UK does lose 39 games over 4 years plus 14 more the next year.

BEFORE the 1990's, UK had 9 FF and 5 NCAA titles in 41 years of NCAA tournament history (started in 1939).

Since 1990's, UK has 4 FF and 2 NCAA titles in 18 years.

Anonymous said...

Correction 9 FF and 5 NC in 51 years of NCAA history.

Anonymous said...

ASoB reader, UK fan, and Tubby fan. To MN fans, you should be proud to have such a great basketball coach and human being.

Many of the UK fans felt that way. Unfortunately the vocal minority was represented in the national media. That's OK though, we have moved on and our loss is Tubby's gain as well as the state of Minnesota. Go Tubby! Go cats!

Jiggles said...

Hello, have you heard of Gopher hockey? It's pretty easy for Minnesota fans to understand UK fans.

goof houlihan. said...

Yep, it would have been taking a chance to pick Billy D over Tubby.

I do remember people preferring that choice, however, particularly over at the old "Alliance Sports" site.

I was one of them, with a different name. I'm goof on several blogspot blogs so here I am.

So I said the 20% preferred Billy. "Race" again, is an interesting issue. Did "race" play a part in hiring Tubby Smith, say, a bit of compensating for the "Glory Road" UK reputation? I'm not one to say such preferential hiring is "reverse racism" but it did appear that the AD, who'd made a name for himself already with aggressively challenging color barriers, wanted to do so again with the UK basketball coaching hire.

So "race" may indeed have been part of the equation, but in a very different way than the innuendoes echoed here.

Ironically, UK now finds itself with a relatively untested coach anyway, years later. No program is immune from the trials of coaching changes. However, with Roy Williams and Ben Howland proving their worth to UK's peers, while we languished in sleepyland, more than a little risk in hiring a new coach was probably called for.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Interesting enough, Tubby beat Roy Williams both at Kansas AND UNC.

Many folks preferred Billy Donovan in 1997. Donovan succeeded at Fla only when he dropped the McDonalds recruits in favor of more Top 50, 75, 100 (or higher) recruits. They won 2 NCAA titles for him. Those teams had a single McDonalds A-A player.