Friday, March 02, 2007

Quit Hatin' On Tubby

What would you do with a coach who during his ten year tenure has won five SEC regular season championships, five SEC tournament championships, won the 1998 NCAA title, made it to the NCAA Tournament every year, won an Olympic gold medal in 2000, and has had 9 straight 20 win seasons?

In addition to that record, that coach won three National Coach of the Year awards (in 2003 he won it by unanimous vote and was the first coach in 25 years to do so), had 5 players drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, has never been in NCAA trouble and entering the 2006-07 season had a 365-133 record. (winning percentage of .733)

For some folks in this state the answer would be to fire him.

Like many African-Americans in Kentucky I'm fed up with the yearly calls from some UK basketball fans to "Fire Tubby". When you ask those irrational idiots why they want him ousted as the Wildcat coach they'll come up with the nebulous excuses 'He can't recruit' or 'He's a lousy coach.'

As far as many of us are concerned in the African-American community, those excuses are smokescreens for the real reason they want him gone: Some of those fans are terrified of the possibility that Orlando 'Tubby' Smith could eclipse the record of their beloved Adolph Rupp (876-190) and become the winningest coach in UK history.

Yeah, racism is playing a major part in this drama along with the arrogance of some UK fans. The SEC was their personal basketball playground for years until the other SEC schools got tired of getting their butts kicked by UK and got serious about beefing up their basketball programs. Those fans forget that Kentucky is still an elite program, the winningest program in NCAA history and still has won more SEC titles (47) than anyone else in the league combined.

But the days are over when Kentucky could walk onto the court, say 'boo', have the other team quaking in their sneakers and win by twenty. The perception may be that UK has slipped, but the new reality is that in 2007 there are more elite programs in men's college ball than in the 41 seasons that Rupp coached.

These programs are all chasing a finite number of elite players. All of this 'Fire Tubby' talk has a negative effect on recruiting. It raises questions in elite players minds about the wisdom of signing a UK letter-of-intent if they like Tubby and want to play for him. That makes it harder for Tubby to recruit those very same elite players that are needed to sustain the UK program against the Dukes, Floridas and UConns of the NCAA basketball universe.

So what would happen if the haters got their wish and Tubby got canned? First of all a coach with Tubby's pedigree wouldn't be unemployed long. He'd be coaching somewhere else before the next season started. UK would get lambasted in the national press and by the college coaching fraternity for doing so.

They would instantly cede basketball supremacy in the state to Louisville. The negative fallout from the firing would ensure that many elite and top-tier African-American players both inside and outside the state would bypass Lexington and play at U of L or elsewhere for at least five to ten years. UK will also have a tough time attracting the same type of high quality coach especially after his fellow coaches watched him get shabbily treated by a segment of the UK fan base.

Frankly, I don't think he's going anywhere. He signed an eight-year $20.25 million extension of his contract last year that runs through the 2010-11 season. That's a lot of contract to swallow. But at the same time I know that anything can happen.

In 1986 I watched Fred Akers get fired at Texas basically for losing four straight years to Texas A&M. Never mind the fact he'd won 75 percent of his games. The same thing happened to Aggie coach R.C. Slocum after going 6-6 in 2002 and losing to the Longhorns for four straight years.

It's time for the racist cadre of UK fans to shut up and let Tubby do his job. You'll have nobody to blame but yourselves if you're successful in running him out of Lexington and my prediction comes to pass about UK basketball life after Tubby.


Taylor said...

I don't think that we have lost to Florida for 5 times in a row because Tubby Smith is black. I don't think that Tubby Smith losing 10 or more games in 5 out of 8 seasons is because of his race. I don't think Kentucky's lack of a 5 star recruit in 4 years is due to Tubby's skin color. Tubby Smith losing 17 players in 8 years is not due to his skin color. Tubby Smith should be held to the same standards as his peers, and his skin color doesnt matter. If Tubby Smith were doing the job that Billy Donovan, Roy Williams, Coack K, Thad Matta, and Ben Howland are doing, no one would want Tubby Smith fired. Racism is still a major problem in Kentucky, and in America, but it has nothing to do with Tubby Smith's job.

jt08192000 said...

You must be out of your mind! There is nothing racial about his failures as a coach. The expectations here are just higher than any place else. UK has had 14 double digit losing seasons (non probation) in its history, Tubby has 5 (assuming another loss this year)of those in just 8 seasons.
I don't care if his replacement is white, black, blue, orange or paisley.
You failed to mention that Pitino left him with a Lexus in 1998. I could have coached that team to the national title. More than half of them went on to play professionally.
Using your rationale we should just lower our expectations of black folk because of color. Expectations are solid regardless of color, creed, etc.
You also forget to mention that the majority of the players are black. And guess what, nobody is hollering to replace them. In fact, we wish Tubby could get Patrick Patterson, Jai Lucas and others to come to Lexington (they happen to be of the same color as well). Last year the three main targets, Wright, Kemp, Young were all black as well. Trust me, we wouldn't be having this conversation if he would have got them.
You probably can't remember cause you were in Texas but Eddie Sutton got crucified in KY when we found out about his crap. And guess what, he is white.

Dharmashanti said...

Hi Monica!

I know little about basketball, but I like what you have to say and I'm glad to have found your blog.


Come out to where the Blogosphere meets the Dharm-iverse at

Monica Roberts said...

To The Tubby Haters:

Who said anything about lowering standards? You have just proved my point about the racism inherent in this situation by immediately claiming through some perverse circular logic that I am in favor of lowered standards since I'm defending Coach Smith.

My point is that I am sick an tired of African-American NCAA Division I coaches being held to UNREALISTIC standards in order to keep their jobs, especially since it is well known that many UK fans didn't want Tubby hired for the position in the first place.

I'm also sick of hearing the bullshyt excuse used to diminish Tubby 1999 NCAA championship that 'he won it with Rick Pitino recruits.'

No, he beat Duke and Stanford to get there and his Wildcat team staged the largest comeback in NCAA championship game history to win that title while Rick was trying to coach in Boston.

I didn't hear the same crap said about Charlie Weis when he came in at Notre Dame last year and had a winning record with Ty Willingham's recruits or Tony Dungy being given credit when John Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa with Tony Dungy's players.

So no, you don't see the racism involved because you ARE white and don't have to deal with factoring that into your everyday lives.

I'm well aware of Eddie Sutton. He coached at Arkansas when I was attending UH and we enjoyed beating his butt while I was there. I am also aware that he's one reason the Cats got slapped with the NCAA probation.

Speaking of UH, not long after we went to three consecutive Final Fours in 1982-83-84 our program slipped fro elite level. Yeah we were pissed at our iconic coach Guy Lewis, but our unhappiness was expressed in civil tones, not the level of vitriolic reaction that I see anytime that we call out the segment of UK fans that engage in rabid Tubby hating.

However, what I'm talking about is not just a Tubby situation. It's something that I have observed along with the African-American community. White collegiate fan bases are far less forgiving of a Black coach that has in their opinion a less-than-stellar record and the white fan base criteria for what they consider as a less-than-stellar record is much lower threshold for a Black coach than it is for a white coach.

And whether you agree with me or not, there IS an element of racism involved in that.

Toxic said...

If you're going to act like you know so much about basketball you might want to at least get the years strait. Tubby won the National Championship with Rick Pitinos players in 1998, not 1999. You know the team he inherited that had already been to back to back national championship games? I think your logic is way off as well. UK fans would be unhappy with ANY coach that let Kentucky slip to the level we are now playing. You forget to mention in your article that UK hasn't beaten one ranked team all season. We did better then that when we were on probation.

Monica Roberts said...

Tubby was the ASSISTANT COACH on that squad and in many program (including Kentucky) the assitants are the ones out there on the road doing the recruiting.

So I could easily use the same elastic logic that you Tubby haters use and say that Pitino won in 1996 with players Tubby recruited.

By the way, if you take a look in the NCAA records for NCAA basketball champions it has the winning head coach listed as Orlando 'Tubby' Smith. Rick was eating clam chowder in Boston while Tubby was coaching them to a national title.

So give it up already. That bogus attack spin is getting old.

This is America home, you can disagree all you want.

But if the only thing that you can pick on is the fact I was one year off in terms of what year he won the title, it mweans that the rest of my arguments are still valid because you didn't challenge the fact that white fans do have a lowered threshold for what is constituted as a lousy season when a Black coach is involved vis-a-vis a white coach.

Toxic said...

No. If Tubby Smith was white he would be in a lot more trouble then he is right now. Every time a black coach doesn't live up to his job these days someone wants to play the race card. If someone is going to scream racism then say it when it is really because of race. Not because a black coach has had two of the worst seasons back to back in Kentucky history. Even Rupp was criticized at the end of his career when he wasn't living up to Kentucky expectations. So did IU fans not like Davis because he was black or was it because he destroyed the IU basketball program?

Monica Roberts said...

By the way, I'm sick of whites thtrowing that 'bullyshyt conservative 'race card' spin line.

It wouldn't be necessary to play the 'race card' as you put it if whites in America hadn't kept ALL the face cards for themselves and passed a marked deck down to the rest of us.

The fact is Toxic that we live in two realities in America, a Black one and a White one. To say that race isn't a part of that is naive and intellectualy dishonest.

Now back to B-ball (which I DO know a little sumthin-sumthin about)

(By the way, In addition to my alma mater I root for UK and U of L, so I do have a stake in this debate.)

So it comes down to it, what are a Kentucky fans expectations?

If they are to go 16-0 in the SEC, win the SEC regular and tournament titles and win the NCAA championship every year the way I hear peeps talk about it those are nice goals but unrealistic expectations for any coach to live up to. If that's yours and every other Tubby critics expectations as a coach, then Jesus himself couldn't coach the Cats.

All I ask is that if those are truly your expectations for Tubby, I want the same expectations placed on the next UK coach, especially if he's white and has two 10-loss seasons back to back. I want the same level of hate and vitriol directed at that coach that has been directed at Tubby.

John Wooden won 7 straight titles at UCLA, but that was during an era when only 24 teams were invited to the tournament and UCLA was a better team than the LA Lakers. Wooden also had a few nine and ten loss seasons in his early record before hitting his stride.

So if the man considered the greatest coach in NCAA history can have multiple ten loss seasons, why the hate for Tubby?

In 2003 Tubby went 16-0 in the SEC, won the tournament along with regular season SEC title and that team fell in double OT in the NCAA Elite Eight. I still heard peeps hollering 'Fire Tubby.'

To quote Adolph Rupp after he had a 6-10 season in the SEC "I didn't forget that much basketball in one season."

Neither has Tubby. Face the facts that Florida has built a juggernaut. A core trio of players whose fathers are pro athletes in Horford, Green and Noah. The good news is that Noah's a senior ;)

Bottom line is that it's harder to win an NCAA title with the parity in the college b-ball ranks right now. Just bccause you have a talented team doesn't necessarity translate into you winning it.

My alma mater (UH) had a squad that contained 4 future NBA first round draft picks in Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Rob Williams and Michael Young in 1980.

Let's see, that teamm lost to Villanova in the first round of the NCAA tourney in 1981, was knocked out of the NCAA Final Four in 1982 by North Carolina and some freshman by the name of Jordan (with major help from James Worthy)
lost on a last second shot that I still throw up on every time I see the replay from the 1983 NCAA championship and was beaten by Georgetown and Patrick Ewing in the 1984 title game.

Wanna talk abouyt frustration?
My alma maters been to 5 Final fours and has lost to the eventual champion every trip, three times in the championship game.

And you UK fans are bitching because you haven't won a championship since 1998. Boo hoo.

Frankly, I doubt that a white coach would be getting the negativity from UK fans that I see being spewed at Tubby, all records being equal.

T said...


As a lifelong Kentucky fan I can tell you that there was plenty of 'hatin' going on toward Eddie Sutton when he was coaching and had bad years. I'm pretty sure that had nothing to do with his race.

I'm sure there are some out there that do want Tubby out because of his race, but you paint that group with a very broad brush.

I had frustrations with Tubby as a coach, only because he was the HIGHEST paid coach in college basketball and failed to achieve the excellence that Kentucky demands. Joe Torre is in the same situation with the Yankees. Why is racism against Italians not a factor in the 'hatin' going on in New York? He has won countless division titles, but fails to get it done in the postseason when it counts most. (I personally don't think Tubby nor Joe deserve to be fired).

The past few years have been tough for Kentucky. Players transferring OUT of Kentucky to lesser schools is unheard of (Alleyne, Simms, Carruth). You seem to forget 'Team Turmoil'. Granted, Tubby and Kentucky had some very bad luck, losing Bogins and to Marquette in 2003 with the #1 overall seed, and the heartbreaking loss to MSU in 2005.

Tubby's credentials put him in the upper tier of college coaches. Winning your conference and making the tourney are good for most schools, but not great. He had 10 years at Kentucky. That's a heck of a long time if he had so many 'racists' out to get him.

I am sad to see Tubby go, I wish him the best of luck at Minnesota. I am concerned that it is going to be very hard, but not impossible, to find a good replacement for him at Kentucky.

To quote a previous poster, racism is still a serious problem in this country, and probably a factor with some UK fans, but not all.