Much has been made of Tubby Smith's National Championship in 1998. Kentucky fans want to permanently put an asterisk by the Title because it was won with players recruited by the former coach, Rick Pitino. This is of course held against Tubby, which I think this is unfair and it seems to be subjective criticism by more than UK fans. Regional and National media also used this criticism when discussing Tubby's legacy at Kentucky. But why is it so subjective?
Will Dan Monson be given any credit if Tubby were to turn the Gophers around in 1 year by taking them to the NCAA Tournament next year and advancing to the Sweet 16 (as that accomplishment would be equal to winning it all with a team with talent)? The answer to that is blatantly obvious and really an absurd question. But I ask the following...
Should Matt Doherty be given credit for North Carolina's NCAA Championship in 2005? That was supposed to be the the team that got the monkey off Roy Williams' back. But should we put the asterisk next to that title? Lets remember that Matt Doherty is responsible for recruiting Sean May, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton. Those 3 Juniors were the core of Roy's team that won it all in his 2nd season as coach.
Should Bill Self be given credit for Illinois' NCAA Runner-Up team in 2005? The entire starting lineup were guys that Bill Self recruited. Does this require Bruce Weber to mail his various Coach of the Year awards to Lawrence so they can be displayed on Self's mantle?
Of course not. Roy Williams is an excellent coach, Bruce Weber did an amazing coaching job in his 2nd year with the Illini and Tubby Smith should also be given all of the credit for winning his National Championship as a #2 seed in his first year at UK.
I don't care how the kids got into your program, winning a National Championship is impressive and it takes a talented coach to get it done. If you want to dispute Tubby's ability to recruit that is entirely another argument, but knocking his ability to coach is ridiculous. Given talent, he was able to take a #2 seed and win it all. Was he able to bring talent into Kentucky? Yes. Was it good enough? No.
If I wanted to make excuses for Tubby I could say that recruiting is much more competitive today than it was even 10 years ago, even for the best programs in the country. If Rick Pitino is the god of Kentucky basketball why has he not been able to get the kids in to make a Final Four run while at Louisville? Because it is much more competitive than it used to be. In the last 10 years you have seen the rise of the Mid-Majors and the exiting of upper-classmen.
But I'm not here to make excuses for Tubby's record at Kentucky (or anywhere). It was a very good and arguably great. Ultimately it comes down to 3 things of which I am certain...
- Tubby Smith is able to win more games with less talent than just about any coach in the country. He clearly is able to maximized the talent of his team to a greater extent than most.
- Tubby Smith will be able to recruit better talent than the previous staff was ever able to bring in. Rick Rickert and Kris Humphries were nice, but both were committed to other schools before changing their minds for various reasons. But let's also remember that they were solo acts amongst mediocre talent. Tubby will bring in more talented teams from top to bottom.
- I will guarantee that he will get much more out of the current gopher squad than we saw this year. Will we instantly be contending for anything? No, but we will instantly be on the plus side of .500 and I will guarantee Minnesota will be talked about as a bubble team on Selection Sunday 2008.