His Old Kentucky home is in fact far, far away - Orlando "Tubby" Smith, otherwise known as "10-loss Tubby" in Lexington, has resigned from the University of Kentucky, and will take his head coaching abilities North to the Twin Cities, taking the top gig for a struggling Minnesota Golden Gophers' program.
Smith's career in the Commonwealth included five SEC regular season titles, five SEC tournament titles and a National Championship very early on. He had a 263-86 record with the Wildcats in 10 seasons, a record that looks very solid but just didn't cut it for the winningest program in NCAA basketball history and its fans.
Smith has a current streak of 14 straight 20-win seasons as an NCAA basketball head coach. His new program is getting one heck of a coach, no matter what anybody says. At the same time, though, I understand the Kentucky expectations and feel that a change was going to need to happen for them to get back on the high-expectations track as soon as possible.
Minnesota went 9-22 this season -- prompting the forced resignation of head coach Dan Monson -- as the Gophers continually try to overcome NCAA sanctions that saw their Final Four appearance erased from the record books. The fact that Smith chose to coach at Minnesota, when there may have been other jobs open to take (including in Ann Arbor, which may have been a better situation), was pretty surprising to say the least.
There are two ways that this news involves Florida, with one being pretty obvious for Gator fans.
Gators' head coach Billy Donovan, who really got a start in his coaching career in Lexington under Rick Pitino, will more than likely be the #1 target for the Wildcats. While we would all like to think that these chances are slim and that Billy D is more than happy winning ball games in Gainesville, I still think that there is a slight chance of this happening -- and when I say slight, that's what I mean. This is a very, very, very small possibility in my opinion, but in some surprising news, I've been wrong in the past.
One positive for the Gators in this could be in the recruitment of one of the top prospects in the nation, Patrick Patterson. It had been rumored that he would make his decision based on what the University of Kentucky did with Tubby Smith. With the head coach's departure in Lexington, Patterson could be leaning towards the Gators somewhat. His list of possibilities also include powerhouse Duke, so this is nowhere near a 100% type of newsbreak.
I'm sure the Wildcats and their fans are absolutely drooling over Donovan right now -- although there are still some very good candidates to take over for Smith outside of our head coach. This could be an interesting month or so as one of the more coveted jobs (at least it used to be) is filled.
We all knew this day was going to come, and that Donovan would have a decision to make. While I'm firm in my prediction that our head coach will not be leaving the Orange and Blue anytime soon, I'm very sure that the power of large amounts of cash and the knowledge that your coaching at one of the top programs in NCAA history is very enticing.