On March 23, 2007 Tubby Smith was announced as the 16th head basketball coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers Men's Basketball program. Since then, Smith has amassed 103 victories on the Gopher sideline, the most in a coach's first five years in the history of Minnesota basketball. He joins a list of only eight Gopher coaches to reach the 100-win plateau.
In those five years, Smith has led the Gophers to four post-season berths, a berth in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, a runner-up finish in the 2012 NIT, a title in the ESPN Puerto Rico Tip-Off and to six victories over teams ranked in the top 10 or higher. Prior to Smith's arrival, Minnesota hadn't defeated a top 10 team in almost three seasons.
The end of the 2011-12 season can truly be summed up as "March Madness." Much of the month was spent away from Minneapolis, beginning with the 2012 Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. The Gophers went 1-1 in a pair of overtime thrillers and moved on the National Invitational Tournament. Before the month ended, Minnesota played three true road games and a pair of neutral site contests at Madison Square Garden, before bowing to Stanford in the NIT Championship game. In all, the 2011-12 Golden Gophers accumulated 23 victories, the most under Smith and the most since the 1989-90 team also won 23 games.
Tubby Smith led the 2009-10 Golden Gophers to 21 victories and their first trip to the championship game of the Big Ten Conference Tournament, where they posted wins over Penn State (76-55), #11 Michigan State (72-67 in OT), and #6 Purdue (69-42), before losing to #5 Ohio State (90-61) in the title game. The Gophers last three opponents in the Big Ten Conference Tournament were all co-champions of the conference season. Minnesota garnered a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, its second straight tournament berth, but fell to Xavier (54-65) in the first round. Smith's three-year Minnesota record sits at 63-39 (.618) while his career record moved to 450-184 (.710).
Coach Smith's second season on the sidelines of Williams Arena will be remembered as the season the Gophers made it back to the dance, as Minnesota made its 11th overall NCAA Tournament appearance and its first since 2005.
Minnesota began the 2008-09 season by hosting the NABC Classic at historic Williams Arena, part of Smith's duties as acting President of the NABC. Three wins in the classic were followed by nine more, as the Gophers sprinted to a 12-0 non-conference record, the fifth-best start in program history. The team went on to win nine games during the Big Ten Conference schedule, added an opening round victory in the conference tournament and was awarded a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Gophers were defeated in the opening round of the tournament but an overall record of 22-11 meant that Smith had led the University of Minnesota basketball team to consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in school history. Also, it was just the ninth time in school history that the program reached the 20-win plateau.
In his first season at the "U", Smith took a team that had won nine games the season before to a 20-14 record. The Gophers finished sixth in the Big Ten Conference at 8-10 and were the sixth seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The 11-game improvement in the win column from the 2006-07 season is the largest season turnaround in school history and tied for the second-best turnaround in Division I in 2007-08. Also, the five-win improvement in conference play was the second biggest Big Ten turnaround in 2007-08.
Smith came to Minnesota with a reputation for winning at the highest level not matched by many coaches in the country. In his 20-year career, he has claimed a National Title (Kentucky in 1997-98), made four "Elite Eight" appearances, nine "Sweet Sixteen" appearances and has posted 17 straight 20-win seasons. His 407 wins entering the 2008-09 season was the sixth-best record of any head coach in their first 17 years in NCAA Division I basketball, joining such names as Roy Williams, Denny Crum, Jim Boeheim, Nolan Richardson and Jerry Tarkanian.
On five different occasions, Smith has been named a conference coach of the year (1994 & 95 in the Missouri Valley Conference and 1998, 2003 & 2005 in the SEC). He has also collected national coach of the year honors on three different occasions (1998, 2003 & 2005).
Not only has Smith had elite success, but he has prepared his players to have all the skills necessary to make the jump to the next level. Smith has sent 19 players to the NBA during his coaching career. That list includes 2008 NBA Champion Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, current Philadelphia 76er Jodie Meeks, Houston Rocket Chuck Hayes, former 10-year veteran Shandon Anderson, Charlotte Bobcat Nazr Mohammed, Detroit Piston Tayshaun Prince, former eight-year veteran Scott Padgett, current Miami Heat Jamaal Magloire, New York Knick Kelenna Azubuike and Chicago Bulls' guard Keith Bogans. Other Smith players to reach the NBA include Shea Seals, Wayne Turner, Michael Ruffin, Erik Daniels, Randolph Morris, Gerald Fitch, Jeff Sheppard, Joe Crawford and Michael Bradley.
That opportunity to play in the NBA was particularly sweet for Rondo, Prince and Anderson, who all realized the dream of winning NBA titles. Rondo was the starting point guard for the Celtics as they made their championship run in 2008 while Prince was an integral part of the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons. Anderson was part of a veteran group of players on the Miami Heat who claimed the 2006 NBA Championship.
Nine of the players Smith has sent to the NBA heard their names called on draft day. Rondo, Magloire, Mohammed, Padgett and Prince were each first round draft picks, while Anderson, Bogans, Meeks and Ruffin each went in the second round. Prince was also a member of the United States basketball team that won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Bogans, Padgett and Prince all received All-American honors during their careers at Kentucky. Prince was also named the 2001 SEC Player of the Year, while Bogans claimed the honors in 2003. Seals was also named an All-American during the 1996-97 season for Tulsa.
Prior to arriving in Big Ten Country, Smith spent 10 seasons (1997-2007) in the Southeastern Conference as the head coach at the University of Kentucky. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Smith led Kentucky to the 1998 National championship, four "Elite Eight" appearances, five SEC titles, five SEC Tournament titles and six "Sweet Sixteen" finishes.
Smith also led the Wildcats to an overall record of 263-83 record for a winning percentage of .760. In his 10 seasons with Kentucky, he averaged over 26 wins per season.
During that time, Smith was 120-40 in SEC play for a winning percentage of .750. His 120 wins were 14 more than any other program in the SEC had during Smith's decade of dominance at Kentucky. He also finished in sole possession or tied for first in the SEC East in seven of the 10 years he coached the Wildcats. Smith was 24-7 in SEC Tournament games for a winning percentage of .774.
He made history in the 2002-03 season when he led his Kentucky squad to a 16-0 record in SEC regular-season play and guided them to the SEC Tournament Championship. It marked the first time since 1952 that an SEC squad had completed both the conference regular season and tournament without a loss.
After Kentucky had won a National title in 1996 and finished runner up in 1997, Smith took over a squad that had lost six players over two seasons to the NBA and other key players to graduation. That season, he guided Kentucky to a 35-4 record and a National Title becoming the first coach since Cincinnati's Ed Jucker in 1961 to win a national title in the first year at a school. Smith also stamped the trademark toughness that his teams have been known for that season, guiding Kentucky to double-digit comebacks against Duke in the "Elite Eight" and Utah in the National Championship on the way to claiming the National title.
Smith's first year at Georgia was not as publicized, but no less remarkable than his first at Kentucky. In the 1995-96 season, his first at Georgia, Smith guided the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. Georgia defeated Clemson and No. 1 seeded Purdue, before falling to eventual National Runner-Up Syracuse on a last-second shot in the "Sweet Sixteen". It was the furthest Georgia had advanced in the NCAA Tournament since 1983. Smith also guided the Bulldogs to a 21-10 overall record and second place in the SEC East at 9-7.
In his first season at Tulsa, Smith led the Golden Hurricanes to a 17-13 overall record and brought them within three points of making their first NCAA Tournament since 1987, as Tulsa fell to SW Missouri State in the MVC Championship game 71-68. Despite all of the great first impressions Smith has made in his career, none were grander then his first season at Kentucky. When Smith took the reins for the 1997-98 season, he inherited a balanced roster loaded with role players. An early loss to Arizona dampened expectations. Three losses at Rupp Arena followed.
Kentucky then rebounded to win the 1998 SEC Eastern Division title and the overall SEC crown. One week later, the Wildcats rolled through the SEC Tournament in Atlanta with decisive wins over Arkansas and South Carolina. "Tubby Ball," a system of solid defense and rebounding, combined with his chess-match style of coaching, was on display.
As a No. 2 seed in the 1998 NCAA Tournament's South Region, Kentucky cruised to the regional final to face top-seeded Duke with a third-consecutive trip to the Final Four hanging in the balance. The Blue Devils grabbed an 18-point lead in the first half and held a 17-point lead midway through the second half. When Smith went to a smaller lineup to counter the quicker Duke players, Kentucky stormed back to win, 86-84. The Wildcats then rallied from a five-point halftime deficit against Stanford in the national semifinals before winning in overtime, 86-85. Many pegged the contest as one of the most well coached games in the entire tournament.
Two days later, Utah led by 10, 41-31, at halftime of the National Championship. No team had ever come from behind by more than eight points in the championship game, until Smith's Wildcats pulled off the trick. The game plan wore out the Utes, and Tubby's "Comeback Cats" rallied to win, 78-69. Smith accomplished the unexpected. He led the Wildcats to their second title in three years.
To cap off his spectacular first year at Kentucky, Smith was named National Coach of the Year by Basketball Weekly and Co-SEC Coach of the Year by The Associated Press. The New York Athletic Club also presented Smith with the prestigious Winged Foot Award given to the coach of the national champions after each season. In the off-season, he picked up the Parent of the Year Award by Parent Magazine, the Victor Award by the Black Coaches Association (now the Black Coaches and Administrators) and was even voted the "Sexiest Male Public Figure" in a reader's vote in a local magazine. The honors culminated when he was named the Kentucky Sportsman of the Year for 1998 in a statewide media vote, edging out Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch.
After earning high acclaim by winning the national title in his first season, Smith guided a team comprised of eight freshmen and sophomores to within eight points of Kentucky's fourth consecutive Final Four appearance. Kentucky's triumphs in the 1998-99 season included six wins over teams ranked in the top 11 with victories over No. 2 Maryland and No. 4 Auburn, and 13 wins over teams in the NCAA Tournament. When March arrived, Smith's squad went to work, winning its seventh SEC Tournament title in eight years.
The 2001-02 Kentucky team began with a preseason No. 4 national ranking, but the Wildcats battled an inordinate amount of injuries and suspensions before being eliminated by Maryland, the eventual national champion, in the East Region Semifinals.
In 2003, a year in which Smith's coaching ranked among the very best in the 100 years of Kentucky basketball, the accolades arrived in a landslide. Smith snared all seven of the national honors recognized by the NCAA - AP, USBWA, Naismith, Basketball Times, The Sporting News, NABC, and CBS/Chevrolet. He became the first coach to sweep the list since Indiana's Bobby Knight captured all five in 1975. For good measure, Smith added honors from ESPN, Foxsports.com, the Black Coaches Association and College Sports Television. Kentucky established the nation's longest win streak in seven years as it rattled off 26 victories in a row, highlighted by a sweep of the SEC regular-season slate and tournament play (19-0). His Wildcats finished No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll and Smith swept SEC and National Coach of the Year honors. Kentucky ended the season in the Elite Eight with a 32-4 record, becoming just the 11th team in school history to top the 30-win mark.
In 2004, the Wildcats posted a 27-5 record while winning a sixth SEC Eastern Division title, another SEC Tournament championship and the school's ninth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, all while spending nearly the entire season ranked among the nation's top 10. Smith's 2005 Kentucky squad won the school's 43rd SEC championship while advancing to the NCAA's Elite Eight. He guided the club, which finished 28-6 and ranked No. 5 in the final coaches' poll, to a 14-2 league record despite a roster that consisted primarily of underclassmen, including four freshmen among the top nine.
Smith also totaled 100 wins quicker than any other Kentucky coach except Hall of Famer Adolph Rupp, reaching the plateau in 130 games. In 2005, he joined Roy Williams, Nolan Richardson, Denny Crum and Jim Boeheim as the fifth head coach to win 365 games in 15 seasons or less.
Consistent success has become the standard throughout the career of Tubby Smith. In addition to taking the reigns from Rick Pitino and successfully navigating the Kentucky program throughout his 10 years, he also guided Tulsa and Georgia into highly successful programs.
Prior to Kentucky, he spent two seasons at Georgia, where he coached the Bulldogs to a 45-19 (70.3%) record and the first back-to-back seasons of 20 wins or more in school history.
Before achieving that success at Georgia, he coached four seasons at Tulsa, guiding the Golden Hurricane to Sweet 16 appearances his last two seasons.
The 1996-97 season at Georgia was one his best coaching efforts. After losing eight seniors and all five starters from the previous year's "Sweet Sixteen" team, Smith led the youthful Bulldogs to a 24-9 record, equaling the school record for most wins in a season. Georgia finished third in the SEC with a 10-6 record, and brought the Bulldogs to the SEC Tournament Championship game for the first time since 1988. Georgia finished the year ranked 17th in the final AP poll and earned a No. 3 seed in the Southeast Regional.
Before arriving in Georgia, Smith led Tulsa to a 79-43 (64.8%) record and won consecutive Missouri Valley Conference regular-season titles in 1994 and `95. When he took over the Golden Hurricane in 1991, he had just five returning players. With a quick injection of new talent, he completed his first season by coaching Tulsa to the MVC Championship Game after finishing fourth during the regular season. Following a 15-14 record in 1993, Tulsa won more than 20 games in each of Smith's last two seasons, captured first-place honors in the MVC with identical 15-3 marks and made consecutive trips to the Sweet 16. He earned the MVC's Coach of the Year award in both 1994 and `95. In his final year at Tulsa, Smith led the Golden Hurricane to a 24-8 record, marking what was then the third-highest victory total in school history, and a No. 15 ranking in the final CNN/USA Today poll.
Much of his success as a collegiate head coach has been measured by his teams' performances in the NCAA Tournament. Smith's 1994 Tulsa team upset UCLA in the tourney's first round before knocking off Oklahoma State. In `95, the Hurricane blew away Big-Ten power Illinois to open March Madness. His postseason success continued at Georgia where the Bulldogs defeated Clemson to open the `96 tournament before upsetting the top-seeded Purdue Boilermakers.
Considered by many as one of the nation's top coaches, Smith was selected to help coach the 2000 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team in Sydney. He served as an assistant to Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich as the Americans withstood high expectations to capture the gold medal.
Coach Smith's national presence is apparent off-the-court as well, as he currently serves as the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and is also on the NCAA Committee to study basketball issues, joining Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Oregon's Ernie Kent. Also, in June of 2000 Smith spoke at a Congressional hearing on the issue of gambling in college sports.
In 2009, Smith visited Washington D.C. to speak on behalf of the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer. He also serves as a council member for Coaches vs. Cancer.
Smith's first impact on the Kentucky program came nine years before his national championship. When Pitino took over the Wildcats' program in `89, he sought an assistant coach to recruit the South, and one name continued to surface -- Tubby Smith. Smith left his assistant coaching position at South Carolina and joined Pitino's first staff, which had the dubious honor of rebuilding a UK program that had been rocked by NCAA probation and player defections.
With only eight scholarship student-athletes, none taller than 6-7, the staff molded the Wildcats into winners, exceeding expectations to record a 14-14 mark. The following year, with Smith promoted to associate head coach and Kentucky still on probation, the Wildcats earned a 22-6 record, a final ranking of ninth in the AP poll, and an SEC-best 14-4 record.
The members of those first two staffs that Pitino assembled formed an impressive group of future head coaches. Smith served alongside Ralph Willard - currently an assistant coach for Pitino at Louisville, Arizona State's Herb Sendek, Florida's Billy Donovan and Bernadette Mattox, former coach of the Kentucky women's basketball team and current assistant coach for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, while the Wildcats began the rebuilding effort that culminated with two championships in three seasons.
Before coming to Kentucky in 1989, Smith was an assistant coach for George Felton (a former UK assistant - 1998-00) at South Carolina, where the Gamecocks notched a 53-35 record during his three years.
Prior to his stop in Columbia, Smith served as assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth for seven years, including six seasons under J.D. Barnett. In those seven seasons, VCU registered a 144-64 record, won three Sun Belt Conference Championships and made five NCAA Tournament appearances. Under Barnett, Smith learned the principles of his ball-line defense, a defense that in three of his first four years at Kentucky held opponents to their lowest field goal percentages since 1962.
Smith began his coaching career at Great Mills High School in Great Mills, Md., where he was head coach for four years and compiled a 46-36 record. His next stop came at Hoke County High School in Raeford, N.C., where he recorded a 28-18 mark in two seasons.
A 1973 graduate of High Point (N.C.) College, Smith was an all-conference performer as a senior. He played under three different head coaches at High Point, including Barnett, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education. The seventh all-time leading scorer in the history of High Point hoops, Smith was honored on Dec. 8, 2011 by his Alma Mater in an event coined "Tubby Smith Night". A Tubby Smith banner now hangs from the rafters at the Millis Center, joining Jerry Steele, HPU's all-time winningest coach, all-time leading scorer Gene Littles, career point-per-game leader Danny Sewell and women's all-time leading scorer Karen Curtis McConico as HPU greats with banners in the Millis Center.
Smith is the sixth of 17 children raised on a rural farm in southern Maryland. He and his wife Donna, have three sons, a daughter-in-law and granddaughter: Orlando (G.G.), who is an assistant coach at Loyola College in Maryland and his wife Lorie, who is a Pediatric Nephrologist and granddaughter Jayna Marie; Saul, who is an assistant coach on the Minnesota coaching staff; and Brian, an Ole Miss graduate,is presently working as an assistant athletic director, boys basketball coach and physical education teacher at Rancho Solano Private Schools in Peoria, AZ.
Smith has always been very active in the community. The Tubby Smith Foundation, which he established to assist underprivileged children, has raised over $1.5 million in the past five years. Tubby's Clubhouses revitalized community centers throughout Lexington by providing computers and training to hundreds of school-age children. In the summer of 2001, the United Way created a new award - The Donna and Tubby Smith Community Spirit Award. The Smith's were the inaugural recipient of the award for their generous contributions. In 2001, their $125,000 donation made them the highest individual contributor to the United Way in the state of Kentucky. The award is given annually to those who effectively advance mobilization or collaboration to achieve positive impact that benefits the Central Kentucky community at-large.
In September of 2011, Donna and Tubby Smith established the Minnesota Chapter of the Tubby Smith Foundation. The foundation was launched on Sept. 18 & 19 with the inaugural Tubby Smith Foundation Golf Classic. The proceeds from the foundation will help support charities in Minnesota that benefit underprivileged children on an as-needed basis. The Tubby Smith Foundation's mission is to be a resource for children and charities that benefit children in the State of Minnesota, who demonstrate a need for financial assistance to improve their physical, mental, educational or overall wellbeing.
TUBBY SMITH AT A GLANCE
June 30, 1951
Great Mills (Md.) High School, 1969
High Point (N.C.), 1973
Wife, Donna; Sons, G.G., Saul and Brian Daughter-in-law, Lorie Granddaughter, Jayna Marie
Guffrie and Parthenia Smith
A four-year letterwinner (1970-73) at High Point, Smith was a team captain as a senior and co-captain as a junior. All-Carolina Conference selection