LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky will raise a jersey in the name of Tubby Smith inside Rupp Arena when the former Wildcats coach brings his High Point University team to play UK on December 31.
Smith led Kentucky to the National Championship in 1998. He was in Lexington for 10 seasons where he left with a record of 263-83, five SEC regular season championships and five SEC tournament championships. During his time at UK, Smith was also named National Coach of the Year three times (1998, 2003, 2005) along with SEC Coach of the Year three times.
“It is with great pride, enjoyment and a sense of excitement that we add one more name to the list of people who will see their names in the rafters of Rupp Arena and that’s Orlando ‘Tubby’ Smith,” Barnhart said. “A national championship coach, National Coach of the Year, a gentleman who brought so much class, honor and excellence to UK, Tubby is special and so deserving. We are thankful to have the chance to honor him and will do so when his team comes to play the Cats in December. 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 was also an assistant coach for two seasons at Kentucky from 1989-'91. He has amassed 631 career victories while also leading programs at Tulsa, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Memphis. He was moved by the decision as Barnhart made the video call to let him know his jersey would hang in Rupp Arena.
“That’s very humbling,” Smith said. “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.
“Do you have enough tickets for my family?” Smith continued, laughing. “You know we have 17 brothers and sisters – it’ll be an empty town in Scotland, Maryland!”
Smith will be the 44th retired jersey to hang in the rafters of Rupp Arena. He joins all of the other previous national championship coaches in Adolph Rup, Joe B. Hall and Rick Pitino to have a jersey retired. John Calipari is not yet eligible to have his raised just yet but he's excited for Coach Smith.
“Tubby and I have been friends for years,” Calipari said. “He is so deserving of this honor. He won big here and he did it with class. 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.”
There is a five-year waiting period, after leaving UK, to be eligible for inclusion into the Hall of Fame. Hall of Famers are eligible for jersey retirement five years after they have been elected to the Hall of Fame. That is voted on by the Retired Jersey Subcommittee of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame Committee.