Across the country, the great issues of the day are being debated. Go on street corners and people are talking about Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, about whether stem cell research should be funded and whether Tom and Katie’s kid actually exists. But in Kentucky, only one debate is ever on people’s minds. What do you think about Tubby Smith? This neverending, circular argument has clogged the state’s message boards, air waves and taken up pages of ink in newspapers as everyone gives their opinion, for or against, whether Tubby should be the coach of the Cats. As the old saying goes, like certain bodyparts, everyone has an opinion and when it comes to Tubby, everyone voices it.
Now its no secret what side of the fence I am on. I believe that Tubby is one of the premier coaches in college basketball and his performance at Kentucky has been great over the course of his career. Nevertheless, I understand and respect some of the opinions on the other side. While some people have been against Tubby from the day he walked on campus and have other unsavory alterior motives, there are some reasonable people who believe Tubby simply is not the right coach for Kentucky or has underperformed while here. While I disagree with this sentiment, a reasonable case can be made for it, so I dont think it is outlandish to have that opinion.
Having said that, it is now time for this debate to end…..or at least to take a temporary cease fire. Folks on both sides of the ledger need to understand and accept…TUBBY IS HERE TO STAY….at least for this year, and maybe longer. There is no amount of moaning, complaining, statistic citing, belittleing, badgering, advertisement buying or radio ranting that will change that. Absent something crazy happening, when Kentucky takes the court at Midnight Madness, Tubby Smith will be the coach.
With that being said, what is the point of continuing this debate at least until the end of next season? Virtually everyone who TRULY cares about the university wants UK to win next season and beyond. We all want to see Kentucky put the best team on the floor next season and be able to build the strongest program. For that to happen, this debate MUST END NOW.
When the fans continue to badger and debate Tubby, many things happen. First, a shadow is cast over the program, which can effect the morale of the players that are here. During the difficulty last season, one player said to me, “you want the fans on your side, not another distraction.” And that is even more true now. This team next year is coming off a difficult season and has to go against negative expectations. Badgering the coach and talking about how disappointing you think he is, only adds to the negativity.
Second, it is KILLING US with recruits. I spoke at length with Patrick Patterson and his parents, Jai Lucas and his father John and this summer, with Dan Werner’s dad. All of them mentioned that the criticism of Tubby has an effect on how they look at the school. Werner’s father said, “we do wonder if the fans will run him off.” Patterson’s mom mentioned to me repeatedly that she “doesnt like the way the fans treat Tubby.” And Lucas mentioned that he hoped that the rumors of “negativity” around the program were untrue. Folks, regardless of what you think about Coach Smith, constant criticism and debate over his merits is truly hurting the program…..at a time and with a recruiting class that is CRUCIAL to future success. The negativity has to stop.
Finally, the fan base needs revitalization. Like at the end of a presidential election, when a candidate has won and criticizing him is of no real help, it is time for the fan base to unify. The school NEEDS to counter the image that UK is hurting and the only way to do that is to rally the troops this next year. Next season, both on and off the court, is the most important in the last ten for the future of this program. The fan base needs to be on during that time…..if it isnt, continued splittering will occur, with negative ramifications for all.
I honestly have quit caring who is and is not a fan of Tubby Smith. People are set in their ways and there are many who simply wont change. Statistics can be created for both opinions and the debate often ends at a standstill. But regardless of your opinion, Tubby IS the coach of this team next season. And if you truly love the school and the program, you want next season to be as good as it can be. For that to happen, the constant infighting over Tubby has to stop. No amount of “demands”, pleas or statements about how you are standing up for the history of the program will change the fact that Tubby Smith is the Kentucky leader for next season. I for one am happy about that, but even if you are not, you might as well accept it and help end the negativity that has been rampant in recent months. When things are difficult, you rally around your leader, even if you disagree with him or her. Now is such a time, and at least until next offseason, the debates about Tubby should end.