While at the Marshall County Hoopfest, I had the chance to speak with a number of people who follow recruiting very closely and I asked them all one question: Why does it seem that Tubby strikes out so often with the top of the line player? I heard a number of theories, most of which were derivative of what is often said, but two stuck out.
(1) One of the major recruiting analysts who asked me not to mention his name said that basically he didnt think that Tubby cared about recruiting in any meaningful way. He told me that he has had conversations with Smith and that he always comes away with the feeling that Coach believes he can win with any five players and that it is not worth breaking his back to suck up to kids who may have a bad attitude when they arrive on campus in any event. It is important to note that this analyst AGREED with Tubby and said that he thought that UK has had the talent necessary the last few years and that they really only are one player away in the coming years. However he was adament that Tubby just doesnt buy into the game that many coaches play and thinks that recruiting is not where the rubber meets the road.
(2) The second was an assistant coach from a Major Division I school who simply told me that Tubby does not have “the fire” when it comes to recruits. He said that Tubby is “old school” and does not want to suck up to a bunch of children, an expression this coach said virtually all major coaches (with the exception he noted of Roy Williams and Billy Donovan) share. However that is why assistants are so important and this was where our friend was clear. “Tubby lost something when George Felton left. He lost a man who recruited with fire. Reggie Hanson is ok, but Felton could sell ice to an eskimo, both to players, and maybe more importantly, to coaches and parents. It hasnt been the same since he left.”
So there you go, interesting points. Everyone I spoke with said Tubby is one of the three best bench coaches in America (joining Coach K and Tom Izzo), but recruiting was an issue.