When I first read the story, I thought the names should be flipped around. No one should go from Kentucky to Minnesota. Coaches want to travel up the job ladder, not down it (Hear that Steve Alford?). To be fair, Minnesota is a major conference job, but Kentucky is KENTUCKY. It’s one of the cradles of basketball, the “destination” jobs that coaches like to talk about. If a coach like Tubby Smith or, hell, Tubby Smith himself, is successful at Kentucky, he keeps that job for the rest of his career and retires a legend. That’s how college basketball works.
Tubby Smith was very successful at UK. In 10 seasons, he won 263 games and lost only 83 (an average of eight losses per season, for you math majors). He won 76 percent of his games as the head basketball coach of the Wildcats. Ah yes, but how many times did he make the tournament? Coaches at major programs like this can only be measured by their success in the Big Dance. Here’s the kicker:
So why is Tubby Minnesota’s new head basketball coach instead of continuing his success at Kentucky? Why is a guy who ran a clean, successful program moving from Lexington to Minneapolis and not the other way around?
The short answer is that Kentucky basketball fans are insane. Winning is not enough for them. Being completely free of any kind of trouble with the NCAA – which is something of a miracle these days – is not enough for them. Because of this story, college basketball “experts” are all over the radio and SportsCenter talking about how Kentucky only raises Final Four and National Championship banners into the rafters of Rupp Arena.
On the surface that’s fine. It’s good for programs and their fans to have high expectations. Plenty of other programs do the same thing. However, the effect this has had on Kentucky fan is that now, a clean program and 20-win seasons are simply not enough. They see Billy Donovan winning tons of games at Florida, but they ignore the fact that Florida was nearly irrelevant two years ago. The current crop of juniors were freshmen on an underachieving team, and a National Championship was just a pipe dream. They see Indiana being remade under Kelvin Sampson but ignore the fact that Indiana hired a guy who didn’t make many fans happy at first because he wasn’t an “Indiana” guy. They also see Texas and Ohio State with their uber-freshmen and want to have that kind of talent again. But ignore the fact that guys like that only come along once every eight years, and the recruiting process for them makes the “business transactions” Tony Soprano puts together, seem clean.
The point is this: UK fan has no idea how good they had it. No, Tubby has never been as popular as Rick Pitino or even everyone’s favorite
racist piece of shit legendary coach, Adolph Rupp. But he’s always recruited well, gotten his teams to play a solid, defensive style of basketball, and he’s never gotten dirty in the recruiting wars (as far as we know). Why in the hell would UK fan be unhappy with that? Simply put, one banner in 10 years is not enough for them.
Tubby Smith leaving Kentucky for a lesser job is nothing less than a direct indictment of Kentucky Wildcats fans. They are now the Nebraska football fans of college basketball. Reactionary, reckless, and naive enough to believe that their program should win National Championships every three years at a minimum. They think they are entitled to 30-win seasons rather than 20. And they’re deluded enough to believe they should be a program that exists only in their heads and in video games, rather than one that exists in the real world.
The immortal words of Colonel Nathan R. Jessep sum up what Kentucky has done to its basketball program today: You [freaking] people. You have no idea how to defend a (basketball) nation. All you did was weaken a country today, [Kentucky]. That’s all you did.