Vaught's Views: Out of patience, Smith says he will alter substitution pattern

February 03, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - The kinder, gentler Tubby Smith that spent more time patting players on the back than stomping his foot during Kentucky's 26-game win streak last year is no more.

Smith has been patient long enough with this year's team, which managed just seven points in the final 13 minutes Saturday and lost 66-60 at Vanderbilt. Starting with tonight's Southeastern Conference game at Florida, players are going to find a much less tolerant, and loving, Smith when they make a mistake.

"Now guys are going to know if they screw up, they are coming out," Smith said. "I've tried every other way. This is it. Guys have played too many minutes any way. That's why we've dropped off at the end (of games)."

Smith said he was "disappointed" that more players have not tried to take charges in recent games. He still sees both Mississippi and Vanderbilt players dribbling though his team for easy scores. He was also upset that no UK player attempted to dive on the floor for a ball going out of bounds at Vanderbilt.


"I've gone as far as I can go. I've been very patient," Smith said.

Too patient?

"Yes," Smith said.

Antwain Barbour was the first to see Smith's impatience. He had what looked like a breakout game in a win over Mississippi last week when he went 4-for-5 from 3-point range. Against Vanderbilt, he played just four minutes - two in each half - even though the Cats missed their last 14 3-point shots and were looking for any way to score late in the game.

"It was something he was not doing," Smith said.

Like what?

"You give up a 3, you give up a layup in transition," Smith said. "You've got to stop somebody sooner or later. You've got to be in the game while on the bench so when you go in you can do your job. When you don't, you are not getting back in."

Starting lineup might change

Smith hinted he might change the starting lineup and make 7-foot freshman Lukasz Obrzut a starter. If not, he's still going to play him a lot more because of his size and aggressiveness. That will shift Chuck Hayes and Erik Daniels back to their more natural positions of small forward and power forward, respectively.

He's also going to settle on a more definite playing rotation, something he's been unable to do this year either because bench players have not been consistent or he's been afraid to use untested players in close games.

"I need to settle on who is going to come in when, and we are going to do that," Smith said.

Kentucky is also not likely to be as versatile in future games. Smith wants a given backup at each position rather than shifting various players to different positions.

That's why Brandon Stockton, who has played just 10 minutes in the last eight games, is now back as point guard Cliff Hawkins' primary backup. Josh Carrier no longer will come in at point guard. Instead, he's going back to two guard behind Fitch.

"I've never had a pattern (for bench substitution this year)," Smith said. "It will help. It's killing me, all the variables that go into it."

Smith said his reserves know what to do and are used to playing specific positions in practice. Rather than shift starters around, he's going to rest his top five players more and give his reserves a chance to play and fill specified roles.

"I just need to settle on who is going in so they can not be nervous when they go in," Smith said about his substitution pattern. "It has just not worked out or been beneficial. It's not been fair to the team. I'm going to give them (the reserves) the chance to make the same mistakes (as the starters)."

Smith was joking about the mistakes. However, Smith probably wishes he had played Obrzut and some other younger players more early in the season. He might have lost a game then, but the Cats would likely have a more settled playing rotation now.

Kentucky has been unable to protect leads

Of course, Smith never envisioned his older players making some mistakes they have this year. Kentucky has been unable to protect leads and Smith has complained all year that his players have no concept of time and score situations.

"Some players say, 'I want to win the game for us.' You don't win the game. The team wins. If you execute the play, it does not matter who ends up with the ball. If you don't run the play and do your own thing, the result is what we got Saturday. It's selfish," Smith said.

But no more. Smith is through being understanding and loving. He's no longer going to tolerate mental mistakes or a lack of physical effort.

Smith prides himself on defense, physical play and intelligent decision-making. Monday he basically admitted his team was lacking in all three areas and that it would change now.

"It's not a panic mode. We just have to get better in these areas," Smith said.

If not, then it may well become a panic mode because despite its 14-3 record and No. 9 ranking, Kentucky is wobbling and Smith's ultimatum Monday to play smarter, tougher basketball or take a seat will either make or break this team.

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