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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: 15 Years Since Tubby Smith’s Championship Team

On this Christmas Eve, I thought it would be a good time to remember the 1998 title team, now over 15 years ago.  It was certainly the highlight of the Tubby Smith era and the conclusion of the best 3-year period of Kentucky basketball ever, in my opinion.  Enjoy some of the NCAA Tournament highlights:

Article written by Bryan the Intern

42 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: 15 Years Since Tubby Smith’s Championship Team



  1. Bill
    9:12 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    “The Comeback Cats can not be denied”



    • BravoBigBlue
      2:58 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      If Cal leaves Kentucky with only ONE (1) NCAA championship, he will be considered a FAILURE. With all the big talk and #1 ranked recruiting classes, he must win more than one to be considered a success as a COLLEGE BASKETBALL COACH. As an NBA placement service, he likely would be given a pretty decent rating. If you’re into that sort of thing.



  2. Ben
    9:17 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    I have a question! If Cal coaches for another six years and 2012 is his only title, will he be considered a better coach than Tubby? They will both have coached at KY for ten years and won one championship. I think that Cal will win another title before he leaves, but what if the one and done only works with a combination of seniors and freshman and we no longer have seniors? This years team really makes you think about the future.



    • Lewis
      9:54 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

      I don’t think he’d be considered a better coach than Tubby, but his record and overall success would be better than Tubby. Cal has 2 Final Fours already and I can’t imagine him not getting another one or two if he stayed 10 years total. Heck, I’d bet on at least 1 more championship if he coaches 10 years at UK.

      Tubby’s biggest failure was never returning to the Final Four. He had great players, unreal winning percentage and generally brought a Top 20 team in to the season year after year, many were Top 10 and Top 5 but he never took that success to the Final Four again.



    • Megan
      10:59 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

      The answer to the first question is yes, and I happen to love Tubby. The answer to the second question is we have seniors. You saw one of them play 21 minutes last game. And the only future you should be thinking about is three months from now.

      Stop thinking about a disappointing future that doesn’t exist and enjoy the present, which does. You’ve got the best program, the best recruits, and one of the best coaches around. It really doesn’t get any better than this! Don’t undermine your happiness with emotionally self-destructive thoughts.

      That video really brings back memories. I loved Heshimu. And Wayne, who abused Wojo. And Jeff. And Scott. The lot of them. Favorite memory: At the end of one of those close games, Scott suggested they run a certain baseline play. Tubby was unfamiliar with it. He didn’t know what it was because the team had run it the year before. At such a critical moment in the game, the coach allowed his players to take control. He said go for it. And it worked beautifully. It was the kind of thing you would see in a movie.



  3. Ray
    9:30 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    I had just about forgot how great that tourney run was. Great games.



  4. Marty
    9:45 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Interesting question by #2. I think it will probably be viewed differently. 1) Cal has 2 Final 4’s to Tubby’s 1. 2) Tubby took over coming off the Pitino era so he was judged against that. Cal took over after the BCG era and is judged against that. 3) Cal has had monster recruiting classes so the hopes have been high. The last couple years under Tubby we were starting to become a mid-major.

    I’m not trying to bash Tubby with that last comment. It’s just my opinion on what the view of the program was by a large population of the fanbase.



  5. MtnCat
    10:05 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Those were good times indeed. Camelot was special.
    Then greed intervened.

    Cal has already surpassed Tubby, he might even eclipse Rupp before he’s done. Wooden’s record is Cal’s ambition. There’s a learning curve his point guards have to overcome in the span of one season for any of the Hall of Fame Coach’s records to be reach. Cal has yet to reach his stride, urgency is the missing ingredient. Not sure yet but the NBA experience might have robbed Cal of urgent tendency’s. Coach Brown’s influence plays more to the pro game than college. The length of the season is Cal’s biggest challenge.



  6. Gap Tooth Danny
    10:06 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.



  7. Beavis
    10:10 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Question,,,If Tubby had stayed another 5 years what would his record have been ? His biggest short comings was his ego and recruiting. No you say,,,,,,recruiting is what got him canned at Minnesota and will be his failure at Texas Tech.



    • Megan
      11:12 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

      Your ego comment is misplaced. Unlike Pitino, Tubby and ego don’t go together.



    • Correct
      12:56 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      You’re right Megan. Tubby didn’t have an ego at all. He was a very humble man. Most on here just remember him for the later years where everybody wanted him gone. He did what most college coaches don’t. Win a Championship. And with a team that wasn’t supposed to. Only 2 of those guys went on the the NBA. And both were role players.



    • Beavis
      2:51 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      I witnessed that ego in person at a Lexington Catholic Basketball game. It was very ugly and not what I would have expected from a UK coach. And lets not forget,,he won his championship with players he did not recruit.



    • hur hur hur....Shut up, Beavis
      2:38 am December 26, 2013 Permalink

      Tubby was a total class act. When my nephew came home on leave from his first tour in Iraq, his brother-in-law wrote the athletics department, requesting tickets. Tubby, whose father was a veteran, complied with the initial request, but went far beyond what was asked. Tubby brought my nephew down on the floor of Rupp and introduced him to the fans. He was given a seat behind the team’s bench, met the players and coaching staff, and was treated like a guest of honor for his entire visit. After the game, Coach Smith chatted with him for about 20 minutes, then gave him a ball autographed by the entire team. It doesn’t seem to me like the man had an ego problem. It sure meant a lot to my family, and we will always appreciate Tubby for that simple act of kindness.



  8. Dr. Tom
    10:12 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Great question #2 Ben for BTI to run with and research particularly the number or percentage of players that left early for the draft during the careers of UK coaches since Rupp. Probably none left early from “Rupp’s teams or even Hall’s. Chapman was the first that I remember to leave early for the NBA. I wonder who was the first??



    • steve
      9:14 am December 25, 2013 Permalink

      Thomas payne



  9. Needanewcamera
    10:20 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Was this recorded on Mars?



  10. tangledupinblue
    10:30 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    After 1998 , his first year , Tubby never defeated above a 5 seed in any NCAA tourney . Think about that , at Kentucky and never beating a team seeded above 5 for TEN YEARS . Yet some people still think the old goat could coach .



    • Megan
      11:49 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

      You’re crazy. I didn’t care for his ball-line defense, but the man could coach. He out-coached Krzyzewski, didn’t he? He was an excellent floor coach. His halftime changes were so good, I wondered why he didn’t make them sooner.

      No, his recruiting hurt him, but the man could coach. The effort you Tubby bashers put forth to destroy the man is amazing. As for your cherry-picked stat (it was 9 years, not 10), only two of those tournament losses can be considered disappointing: in ’01, losing as a No. 2 seed to No. 6 USC, who were really good, and in ’04, losing as a No. 1 seed to No. 9 UAB. Ouch. Losing out twice to Final Four Michigan State, or to Dwyane Wade’s Marquette, or to National Champion Maryland, or to a couple of No. 1 seeds doesn’t mean the man couldn’t coach. Give it a rest already.

      ’99 – No. 3 seed lost to No. 1 (Final Four Michigan)
      ’00 – No. 5 seed lost to No. 4 (Syracuse)
      ’01 – No. 2 seed lost to No. 6 (USC)
      ’02 – No. 4 seed lost to No. 1 (national champion Maryland)
      ’03 – No. 1 seed lost to No. 3 (Dwayne Wade’s Marquette)
      ’04 – No. 1 seed lost to No. 9 (UAB)
      ’05 – No. 2 seed lost to No. 5 (Final Four Michigan, 2OT)



    • Htj
      12:49 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      I agree Megan



    • Nate Trump
      2:42 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      Holy smokes, Megan…look at the “effort” it took to defend this AVERAGE record. And still you end up with:
      lost
      lost
      lost
      lost
      lost
      lost
      …….



    • Beavis
      2:54 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      Megan, you are entitled to your opinion of course but I am entitled to mine. The longer he was here the worse things got. He was feeling the heat and bolted for Minnesota.



    • tangledupinblue
      4:16 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      Megan [or Donna] , I guess we look at things differently . I’ll tell you what , you show me 1 , just 1 , impressive win in the NCAA tourney that your old goat had after the 98 team Pitino gave him , and I may change my mind . Heres what I see , he failed at Kentucky , he failed at Minn. , and I predict he will quickly fail at Texas Tech . Are you one of Sauls ex-lovers ? lol



    • Dee W.
      11:28 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      yes, Beavis, you are entitled to your own opinion. However, being entitled to your own opinion does not make you entitled to your own facts. Your comment that things got worse every year is factually false – as in not true.

      Tubby Smith record at Kentucky

      1997 — 1998 — 35-4 overall, 14-2 SEC, SEC regular season champions, SEC tournament Champions, NCAA Champions, SEC Coach of the Year

      1998 — 1999 — 28-9 overall, 11-5 SEC, SEC tournament Champions, NCAA Elite 8

      1999 — 2000 — 23-10 overall, 12-4 SEC, SEC regular season Champions (tied), NCAA Round of 32

      2000 — 2001 — 24-10 overall, 12-4 SEC, SEC regular season Champions (tied), SEC tournament Champions, NCAA Sweet 16

      2001 — 2002 — 22-10 overall, 10-6 SEC, NCAA Sweet 16

      2002 — 2003 — 32-4 overall, 16-0 SEC, SEC regular season Champions, SEC tournament Champions, Granted #1 seed NCAA tournament, NCAA Elite Eight, SEC Coach of the Year, Naismith National Coach of the Year, Henry Iba Award for best national coach of the year, AP National Coach of the Year, first team since 1952 to go undefeated through SEC conference play through both the regular season and tournament (and first and only to do so with 16 regular season games), new record set for highest attendance at a game at Rupp Arena during this season, largest margin of victory (62 points) over an opponent in a game since 1952, first college coach since 1975 to sweep all NCAA recognized national coach of the year honors in the same season

      2003 — 2004 — 27-5 overall, 13-3 SEC, SEC Tournament Champions, Granted #1 overall seed NCAA tournament, NCAA round of 32

      2004 — 2005 — 28-6 overall, 14-2 SEC, SEC regular season Champions, SEC tournament runner-up, NCAA Elite Eight, SEC Coach of the Year, Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year, AP National Coach of the Year

      2005 — 2006 — 22-13 overall, 9-7 SEC, NCAA round of 32

      2006 — 2007 — 22-12 overall, 9-7 SEC, NCAA round of 32

      3rd longest serving Head Coach at UK (10 years — a decade)

      12 total years coaching at UK

      Great ambassador for the program

      Charitable work which continues to have a strong positive impact to this day in the community

      Tayshaun Prince was recently on KSTV and talks a lot about the influence Coach Smith had on him as a player and a person starting at about 5:04 in the video below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J4wCBP4Vfc&list=UUSXKOGW6LvqCtvAKCOWJO0g#at=322



  11. UKBlue1!
    10:32 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Rick Pitino left a well oiled machine. Even Tubby couldn’t screw this team up.



    • jb cruse
      8:44 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      Exactly ole 10-loss Tubby won a title with Rick’s players …. TLT left UK in terrible shape, compared to how it was whne he took over.. Are you kidding me?



  12. CATSCATSCATS
    10:37 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    You look at that team, then you look at this year’s team and all you can do is shake your head. That team’s level of maturity and cohesiveness is way out of reach for the Cats today, maybe even unattainable with this group. Hope I’m wrong.



  13. Bill
    10:45 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    no NBA lottery picks on that 98 team, just sayin.



  14. schwing
    10:55 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    and today we will also rehash some 15 year old arguments.



  15. Truth
    11:10 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    That was Rick’s team



  16. sunnycat
    11:47 am December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Could you please post a worse quality video?



  17. GRob
    12:11 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    I was in Havana, Cuba when we won the championship in ’98. I couldn’t watch the game. The only way I could keep up with the score was by catching periodic highlights during a figure skating special on ESPN. True story.



  18. thats budda
    12:27 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    96 championship, 97 loss in OT in finals, 98 championship. Doesn’t get the credit nationally that it deserves . What a run and I don’t even remember the fact that the game against Stanford went to OT in 98.But then again, that’s not a surprise



    • Correct
      1:00 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      Yea, if Anderson isn’t hurt in 97 we win 3 straight.



  19. TAXman
    12:29 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    I love how the end of the video was us burying free throws. i’m not even sure what that feels like anymore.



  20. Htj
    12:46 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    I agree, I don’t believe Tubby has an ego at all. I think he is a class guy. Unfortunately he just isn’t the best recruiter out there.



  21. Wingers
    1:21 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    For those saying this was Pitino’s team does that mean that 2009 was still Bush’s year? Since it was still all his policies?
    Losing 750,000 jobs a month.
    1.2 trillion debt for 2009
    So add that 1.2 trillion to Bush’s 5 trillion = 6.2 trillion debt added
    So far Obama’s 6 trillion minus 1.2 trillion = 4.8 trillion debt added

    And don’t bother saying 2001 belongs to Clinton because he handed Bush a budget surplus.



    • EasyE523
      1:28 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      wow what a zinger



    • Dee W.
      11:32 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

      No – it was Obama’s, Pelosi’s and Reid’s – since they all had a big hand in shaping the policies for that fiscal year. The surplus that Clinton supposedly handed Bush never existed and never materialized, before Bush ever got his own budget passed.

      Try again – and try using some actual facts instead of partisan boilerplates.



  22. Radio Ron
    1:32 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Dr. Tom,
    UK was probably the very first college to have a player leave “early” for the Pros. In 1935, a UK player named Leroy Edwadrs left after 1 season to play professional basketball. In modern times…Tom Payne left after his soph. season to sign with the Atlanta Hawks in 1971.
    BTI.
    I must DISAGREE with you on 1996 -1998 being the BEST 3 yr. period in UK basketball. During those years…UK won 2 NCAA titles and one Runner-up, BUT from 1948-1951…the CATS won THREE
    NCAA Championships !!!
    Radio Ron was there..ho,ho,ho!!



  23. Floyd
    2:37 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Rick would have never beaten Duke. He would’ve tried to out coach K. He would’ve taken the time-outs, and gave Duke a chance to regroup. You can “Rick’s players” all you want it doesn’t beat the FACT that if RIck was coaching they would’ve lost to Duke.



  24. BravoBigBlue
    3:46 pm December 24, 2013 Permalink

    Tubby Smith was not a great fit for the Kentucky program. But for anyone to suggest that he couldn’t coach is ridiculous. He was not a great recruiter, no doubt. Cal, on the other hand, is a great recruiter. But he is not a good coach, from a preparation and in-game perespective. There are many better coaches than Cal in those areas. I’ve watched him closely for 4 1/2 seasons at UK, and he leaves a lot to be desired.