In some quarters there was cheering, in others disappointment. Former players expressed anger at the demands of Kentucky fans. Former coaches expressed surprise, even embarrassment. Almost immediately, speculation began about who would replace Tubby.
The Friday edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader devoted its entire front page to the news, save a narrow rail down the left side, itself promoting yet another basketball story - a state tournament game - at the top.
And evidently, the second most important story was about things to do while you are at the state tournament. Under that, a couple of sentences pointed us to the relatively unimportant news of the governor's signature on a minimum wage hike and a report that presidential candidate John Edwards' wife is fighting cancer again.
Soaking up the ink
There were six more pages of "Tubby news" inside the Lexington newspaper's front section that day - more than a third of it - and an editorial cartoon. And with the Sweet Sixteen and the NCAA tournament both in progress, basketball was king of the sports section, too.
The Courier-Journal in Louisville also filled the vast majority of its front page with Tubby, along with the better part of its sports section. The Advocate-Messenger headlined Tubby on the front with fan reaction, and devoted two of four sports pages to the story, including the section front.
All of those newspapers began their coverage of the resignation with their online editions, the news breaking after Thursday's print products had gone to press. Extensive coverage continued in their online products, with sidebars and blogs. Sports writers were bombarded with e-mail.
There are few Kentucky stories I can recall having soaked up as much ink as Smith's resignation, and at least two of the others also had to do with a basketball coach - Rick Pitino - on both his departure from and return to the Bluegrass State.
Most of the other huge stories gave us bad news. Not that the departure of both Pitino and Smith wasn't bad news to some people. Even Pitino's return was bad news to almost everyone outside of Louisville. But I mean really bad news, like a tornado or a plane crash or 9/11.
Some of you might say this fascination with basketball, or sports in general, is of the media's making. If we didn't call it such a big deal, it wouldn't be such a big deal. We would argue that the press responds to the public's burning desire for information. Your collective interest drives our bus. Your special interests sometimes surface, but what will attract most readers usually wins out.
Stories like the Tubby Smith resignation require no study. The more the better. Readers will take as much as we can give. Long stories. Short stories. Pictures. Graphics. Quotes. Whatever.
Absent such stories, which is almost every day, the media searches not just for what you want but what you need, and the competition for your attention is greater than ever.
On the scale of information that is "important," Tubby Smith's move to Minnesota doesn't weigh heavy. On the scale of "important to you," it is hard to balance. That makes it difficult to second guess the percentage of space any newspaper devotes to the subject, unless it devotes little.
So, yes, it IS about selling newspapers, most often when the news is important, but sometimes when it is just entertaining.