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Summary of Thursday’s Events and Ramifications

Wildcat

Well sometimes it seems that everything that can be said has been said (but not on here, where the 18,000 hits we received in ten minutes knocked not only our site, but every blog on the Host My Site server out…..sorry for the delay, but they made us switch servers). Especially in the internet age, where opinions burst out like wildfire and can be considered and discarded within moments, events like today bring out a string of emotions and positions that basically leave one believing that there are no more original thoughts. I wont spend tonight waxing poetic about whether the decision for Tubby Smith to leave the University of Kentucky was positive or negative. There are some fine articles, on all different sides of the spectrum on this issue from sources such as Gregg Doyel, Pat Forde and Mike Decoursey. These articles all hit at the good and the bad of the decision and who is to blame and who isnt.

What I would rather do today is discuss how we got to this point and review the day. Here is what we know. We know that sometime last night or early today, Tubby Smith accepted the job as head coach at Minnesota. A statement released by the University of Kentucky today stated that they gave the Minnesota AD permission to talk to Tubby and that conversations had been ongoing between Tubby’s agent and Minnesota for some amount of time. Andy Katz reports the Minnesota AD’s chain of events here. I have been told that those conversations began in earnest on Monday but that the very real possibility of Smith as head coach began formulating Tuesday night and Wednesday. As you may know, Smith was at the Sweet 16 on Wednesday, watching potential walk-on Matt Walls and still commenting that he and Barnhart had not yet had their big meeting. But it is clear now that at that point, the Minnesota talks were on going.

After accepting the job early this morning, he met with his coaching staff and players to give them the news. I have heard from multiple sources that the players were taken very off guard by this decision and were left “in shock.” Tubby then got on a plane and headed for Minnesota to make the agreement final. In the process, UK did not receive, at least according to them, official word of the decision until sometime after 4:30, when the story had long been reported on the various media outlets. Smith’s news conference at Minnesota is scheduled for tomorrow.
Miinnesota will pay Smith 1.8 MILLION a YEAR according to Andy Katz…..that is amazing money for a program like Minnesota…..they will make him the third highest paid coach in the land…..for a program that has only been to the NCAA six times in its history.

Now with that as the backdrop, lets talk ramifications….

(1) First for Smith and the UK relationship with him. Andy Katz has reported that Tubby got a 1.5 million dollar bonus that was due to him as part of his severance package. This news seems somewhat odd to me. Either UK legitimately tried to keep Smith, as is being reported, and didnt know for sure he was leaving……or they pushed him out the door and gave him 1.5 million. Only one of these two stories can be correct, not both. If Tubby was sneaking off to Minnesota, there would be no reason for UK to pay him the 1.5 million dollar bonus. Something is amiss here and needs to be cleared up. Along those lines, many are reporting that Mitch Barnhart gave Tubby a “fire the staff or be gone” ultimatum which Tubby didnt take. I think that I will hold off on belief on this until I hear Tubby say it. Smith wasnt to sad about losing two staff members…..so I question whether he would have made such a stance. Bottom line….I think Tubby simply decided ten years of the pressure cooker at UK was enough and it was time to move on to a less stressful job. And that is what he now has.

(2) Now what about the recruits? Well I spoke with Patrick Patterson’s father who told me that the news today came as a “complete shock to me and Patrick.” He said that they had never heard any peep that this could happen from Tubby and were shocked that he made the decision. He took the view that “Kentucky is big time….and it is what it is when you go there.” He said that Kentucky may have dropped for Patrick but that they wanted to see who the coach would be. In other interviews, Patrick’s mother expressed the belief that Kentucky was in the final 3, but now she didnt know and that she thought this would be a big deal for Jai Lucas. Lucas himself was quoted today as saying that this is why he decided to wait on his decision and that he would have to see what happens with the new coach in the next few days.

Bottom line on these two kids…..Lucas was headed to UK, now we shall see. I still think Patterson was headed to Florida ultimately, but UK still had a shot. There was some talk today that the two young men were considering announcing their intentions at the McDonalds All American Game. I spoke with Pat’s dad and he said that wasnt an intention for them, but “the McDonalds people wanted us to.” Jai on the other hand said he wasnt sure when he would have made his decision. My source on this thinks that Jai was going to make a decision while in Louisville, but that Patrick likely would not have. We will never know ultimately and at this point, it is just speculation. What this does show is why the two young men waited…..in the recruiting world, you just never know. AJ Stewart confirmed today that he is UK bound, regardless, showing that he loves the school, no matter the coach.

(3) So what about replacements? A number of names have been thrown about and here is my view of how the tiers will go. This isnt necessarily my list, but what I believe the UK list looks like:

First group
Billy Donavan
Tom Izzo

Second group
Tom Crean
Billy Gillespie
Rick Barnes
Thad Matta
Jay Wright
Mike D’Antoni

Third Group
Mark Few
Mike Brey
Travis Ford

From my talks with the folks around UK, this is how I think the preliminary sorting of the coaches will go. There are some wildcards here however. No one is sure what the UK administration would think of John Calipari. If they would approve of him and his background, then he becomes a first group guy……but there may be some forces at UK who want them to stay away from his background…..if so, then he wont be considered at all. And then there is Ricky P…..I dont see him leaving Louisville and many fans dont want him….but there a segment of people who swear he will get some feelers…..I have a hard time believing it, but who knows.

Donavan and Izzo are the top two. Hard to imagine either leaving….Izzo is an alumnus of the school and loves the university…..Donovan has a chance at back to back titles. But you can believe this…..UK will hear what Donavan thinks before they go elsewhere. He is the one guy that EVERYONE can agree on….others get much more controversial. I dont expect him to leave…..but UK will do all they can to find out. And his quote tonight which was essentially, “I know you have to ask me that, but my focus is on winning the national championship”…..well that isnt a no, now is it?

Finally, it is important to consider that this will be a tough few days for Kentucky but brighter days are ahead. Many in the national media are ripping the Cats’ fans but ultimately that will pass. What matters now is that the program hire the RIGHT coach for the future. My list would be this:

Donavan
Gillespie
Matta
Wright

The others have too many question marks or arent coming. But whatever happens, the correct choice must be made. The Cats cant afford a let down. Everyone knows that I am a fan of Tubby and I will be a fan of his at Minnesota. He is a wonderful man who has represented the school well during his time in Lexington. I am saddened to see this day, but I am not surprised and I agree with many who believe that ultimately, this may work out best for both parties. For now however, the focus is on getting the right guy for the future…..and UK must make the right decision.

Article written by Matt Jones