Vaught's Views: Brian Smith 'fits in real nice' at Mississippi

October 29, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

BIRMINGHAM - Brian Smith is not just another Southeastern Conference basketball player, but he is just another player at Mississippi.

Smith is the youngest son of Kentucky coach Tubby Smith. However, rather than play for his father as his brothers G.G. (Georgia) and Saul (Kentucky) did, Brian went another route. The former Lexington Catholic standout spent last year at Fork Union Military Academy and then joined Mississippi as a walk-on player this year.

"I thought he might stick with his father," Mississippi senior Kendrick Fox said. "But we are taking good care of him. He fits in real nice. We just call him 'Young B' because he's one of the boys now."

Mississippi coach Rod Barnes and Tubby Smith have been friends for years. Barnes laughed at the suggestion here Wednesday at the SEC Media Days that he might one day find his coaching rival second-guessing him over the way he plays Brian Smith.


"If Tubby calls and gives me advice, I would take it," Barnes said. "He's in the coaching profession, and he's good. I wouldn't even get upset because he's a coach. I would look at him more as a coach than parent.

"The same rules would apply with Tubby as any parent. I'll discuss academics or anything else, but I will not discuss playing time even with Tubby."

Tubby Smith isn't sure he'll even get to see his son play because of their conflicting schedules. However, he says his wife, Donna, would be more apt to voice her opinions than he would.

"She gets on me, too, for my coaching," Tubby Smith said.

Making a good impression with his teammates

Based on what his current teammates have seen, the Smiths will be happy with their son's role this year.

"He's very smart for a freshman. He sees the floor well and has a good knack for getting behind the defense," Fox said.

"He's intense, just like his father," Mississippi senior Justin Johnson said. "There's a big adjustment at this level, but he seems to know what it takes. There's no question he'll be able to help us a lot this year. His defense alone will get him on the court. He's very productive offensively, too, because he takes good shots and gets the ball to the open man."

Johnson said he's liked his freshman teammate since the day he picked him up at the airport upon his arrival in Mississippi.

"He's a fun guy to be around," Johnson said.

Barnes, like Tubby Smith, normally has walk-on players on his team. Like Smith, he's not afraid to use a walk-on player and treats them like regular team members.

"We've got 16 players. I treat them all the same. I didn't have to change anything for him because he is Tubby's son," Barnes said. "He's earned his teammates' respect already. They respect him because he's Brian Smith, not because he's Tubby's son."

But what if Tubby Smith and his wife do have a chance to come to Mississippi for a game? Would Brian Smith's teammates feel funny seeing the Kentucky coach sitting in the Ole Miss cheering section?

"Actually, I've talked with him about that," Johnson said. "He would love to see his dad come watch us play. He says he's more comfortable with his dad in the stands just like most players are because he can look up there for reassurance. But anybody would want their parents to come because I'm sure he misses them.

"At first it might be weird to see another head coach in the stands. But it wouldn't be like coach Barnes would have him on the bench with him. It wouldn't be a bad thing at all. We all would probably like it."

Ole Miss game is Jan. 19

Tubby Smith certainly will see his son play Jan. 19. That's when the Cats go to Oxford, Miss., for their fourth SEC game. Barnes says having the UK coach's son on his team won't impact his decision making that night.

"It won't play on my mind when we play Kentucky," Barnes said. "If it does, it won't be because of Tubby, but due to Donna. She's the one who might get on me.

"Seriously, Tubby trusts me to be fair. He won't second guess me, or at least not during the game. Plus, I have enough problems when we play Kentucky without worrying about Tubby."

"Knowing Tubby Smith like I do, he'll be even more competitive that night," Johnson said. "That's something you talk about when the family is together. He won't want his son's team beating him."

Tubby Smith said there's no chance his son will slip him any inside information. His teammates know that's true, too.

"He hardly even mentions Kentucky unless we bring it up," Fox said. "He's a Rebel through and through now. He's one of us and we're glad to have him."

Even if Brian Smith's father does coach the team that every SEC team loves to beat.

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