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How Tubby Smith Came to Minnesota

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Very enlightening article here about how UK and Tubby Smith parted ways. I'm not real intersted in this as a UK bashing exercise, but instead as a way to possibly understand why (I believe anyway) Tubby is here probably for the duration of his career.

Tubby Smith began thinking about an exit strategy long before that spring day, when he bolted for Minnesota. In fact, he himself told me Lou Holtz had advised him to get out, back when Smith was sending top-seeded teams to the NCAA tourney, in the early 2000’s. Holtz had learned first-hand, at Notre Dame, what it was like when the cheering ebbs. Get out while you’re ahead, he counseled Tubby.

What made Smith think about a change of address in earnest was his desire to have his son, Saul, join his coaching staff. Everybody knows what kind of pressure he was under to make changes among his assistants, even after the 2004-05 season that saw him a rebound or two away from that elusive second trip to the Final Four.

Call it loyalty, call it stubbornness, Tubby dug in. But toward the end, sources tell me, he agreed to clean house (with the exception of Dave Hobbs) if he could bring Saul on board.

Trouble was, UK has an anti-nepotism policy, the same one of which former Athletics Director Larry Ivy ran afoul when his step-son, Rob Manchester, landed a graduate assistant’s job with the football team.

It’s understandable as to why Smith would want to hire his own son, who eventually did join him at Minnesota. I can relate; my own son, Jack, sometimes travels with me to sporting events to lend a hand. My daughter Kate often pitches in on the UK broadcasts at Commonwealth Stadium and Rupp Arena. I enjoy having them around, seeing as how just last week they were toddlers.

And if you read Gene Wojciechowski’s excellent piece in ESPN The Magazine a few years ago, you’d understand the special bond between Tubby and Saul. Tubby and Donna nearly lost Saul when he was very young to a medical condition requiring extensive surgery, instilling within them the fear no parent should have to experience.

Tubby also told the administration he would shake things up if he could get a contract extension (either one or two years, depending on whom you believe). With 25 losses in the past two seasons, he didn’t really have much of a chance there.

So upon hearing “No, thank you,” he became a Gopher, leaving behind a body of work that was far more impressive in the first eight than it was in the last two.

And that’s where I part company with Tubby Bashers.

The article goes on to discuss many issues at UK, including the racism factor, but gets back to items that might interest us including Tubby's recruitment. The article notes that it was Coach Smith who had Patrick Patterson, and at the time Jai Lucas, ready to come play for the Big Blue.

On the Saul Smith portion of the article, some of you might remember from my old site that I questioned the Saul hire based solely on nepotism. I was roundly criticized for that opinion. That's well and good. And while I would personally favor an anti-nepotism policy, it's easy to also understand wht Coach Smith felt his son was qualified for to be a third assistant.