Tubby honor

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Tubby Smith will receive special honor when he returns to Rupp Arena on New Year’s Eve.

The former Kentucky coach will have a jersey retired in his honor the school announced on Tuesday. Smith guided the Wildcats to a national title in his first season at the helm in 1998 and served as the team’s head coach for 10 years. He finished with a 263-83 mark in a decade as the team’s coach and won five Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles. Under his guidance, Kentucky reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament six times and compiled a 23-9 record in the postseason.

Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart informed Smith of the decision on Tuesday.

“That’s very humbling,” Smith told Barnhart during the call.  “I’m certainly grateful to have had the opportunity to lead that program. Some wonderful people there, wonderful fans. You can’t find better people. They have a passion for the game, not just basketball but for the Wildcats, period. Thank you for doing that. We’re looking forward to it.”

Barnhart said the announcement came with “great pride, enjoyment and a sense of excitement.”

“We are thankful to have the chance to honor him and will do so when his team comes to play the Cats in December,” he said. “A lot of folks are going to want to come back and be part of that time. Tubby and (wife) Donna contributed so much to the fabric of the University of Kentucky and we want to thank them in a special way.”

Smith’s jersey will be the 44th to be hung in the rafters, joining former Kentucky coaches Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall and Rick Pitino.

Current Kentucky coach John Calipari said Smith is “so deserving of this honor.”

“He won big here and he did it with class,” Calipari said. “Tubby impacted so many people in and around this program and he is loved by the players who played for him and by this fan base. I can’t wait to see his banner raised.”

During his call with Barnhart, Smith had one request.

“Do you have enough tickets for my family?” Smith asked with a laugh. “You know we have 17 brothers and sisters – it’ll be an empty town in Scotland, Maryland!”

And it will be a full house when he returns to Rupp Arena.

Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or via Twitter at keithtaylor21

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