UK Notebook: Fitch, former coach support Smith's ranking

November 09, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith recently was picked as the nation's top coach by CBS Writer Gregg Doyel indicated it was easy for him to pick Smith as the nation's best coach.

"No player for Kentucky made the top 10 at any position (in preseason rankings), and the same would have happened last preseason - yet the Wildcats were the best team in the country for much of last season, and they will be ranked in the top 10 at some point in 2003-2004," Doyel wrote.

Completing Doyel's top 10 were Bobby Knight of Texas Tech, Gary Williams of Maryland, John Chaney of Temple, Dick Bennett of Washington State, Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Jim Calhoun of Connecticut, Rick Pitino of Louisville, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Lute Olson of Arizona.

Kentucky guard Gerald Fitch certainly endorses his coach as the nation's best.

"I call him the mastermind because he has a solution for any problem on or off the court," Fitch said. "You can go in and tell him a problem, and he'll have a solution. You can be having trouble in a game, and he'll have a solution. That's why I call him the mastermind."


Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith is also a Tubby Smith backer.

"The Kentucky coach is always going to receive so much criticism," Sonny Smith said. "Someone is always going to be on him. He may not always get the credit he is due. He gets the adulation and recognition, but he's never going to be able to overcome the fact that everybody in the state is a coach.

"All you have to do is listen to the radio talk shows to know how much people criticize the Kentucky coach. That makes it very difficult to get the credit you deserve, but Tubby is getting a lot. His peers certainly recognize what he does."

Sonny Smith, who now does a radio talk show in Birmingham, Ala., with former Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson, says Tubby Smith could have succeeded in any era because of the way he coaches.

"The guy has a great basketball mind and great rapport with his kids," Sonny Smith said. "He has the total package you need to win in college basketball. Tubby Smith is the kind of guy who could coach in any era. He could have coached in the 1970's and been successful.

"They say you have to change now to be successful, but Tubby's style would always work. He's just one of the better ones out there."

Still, Kentucky fans are prone to voice their displeasure when something doesn't go right for Tubby Smith and his team.

"When you hear somebody talking about your coach, especially when they are very negative, it bothers you," Fitch said. "At Kentucky, you hear all kinds of things, especially after a loss. That's when it really gets crazy.

"Most of the time after a loss, it's just best not to even go out too many places. If you do, you are just asking for trouble because people are going to be talking about you or your coach. We have die-hard fans that want you to win every game. When you don't, they get upset. But they shouldn't blame coach Smith because he's the best there is."

Recruiting: Kentucky should learn Monday whether guard Ramel Bradley will publicly confirm the private commitment he made to sign with the Wildcats during his recruiting visit.

Bradley, who is from New York but is playing his final season in Florida, has scheduled a press conference for Monday. He also decided not to take a recruiting visit to Boston College this weekend.

Kentucky also remains in the running for Detroit guard Joe Crawford, who has narrowed his choices to UK and Michigan. Crawford is rated among the nation's top five shooting guards by most recruiting analysts.

Keightley speaking: Kentucky basketball equipment manager Bill Keightley, known as "Mr. Wildcat" to UK fans, will speak at the Danville-Boyle County UK Alumni Club meeting Nov. 18 at Danville Country Club.

Keightley has worked under coaches Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith at Kentucky.

For information on the event, contact Don Vizi at 236-2361.

Cat talk: Antwain Barbour will have to sit out UK's exhibition game Wednesday as well as its season opener Nov. 21 as part of his punishment for an off-season incident. However, when the senior wing player returns, teammates expect him to be one of the team leaders.

"Antwain always likes to talk," Kentucky senior forward Erik Daniels said. "He's one of the loudest guys I know. He carries that over on the basketball court. Sometimes that's what we need him to do, be more vocal, for the team to be successful."

Johnson starting: Former UK defensive end Dennis Johnson should make his third straight start for the Arizona Cardinals today against Pittsburgh. It will be the fourth start of the year for Johnson, a former Mr. Football from Harrodsburg.

He had one of his best games in last week's win over Cincinnati when he made six tackles and was also credited with two quarterback hurries.

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