Updated: Oct 20
Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart joined Lexington television show, BBN Tonight, to discuss some breaking news happening within the basketball program.
Mitch says that when Tubby Smith returns to Rupp Arena this fall with High Point, on December 31st, he'll have his jersey raised and hung in the rafters, honoring his time here as a Head Coach.
"I've been coming here for over 20 years as Athletic Director, and had a opportunity to look up into the rafters and see some very, very special names. 44 banners are in these rafters, with names of iconic players, names of coaches that have previously won national championships..."
Barnhart continues, "It's with great pride and enjoyment, and really a sense of excitement, that we add one more name to the list. People that will see their names in the rafters of Rupp Arena- that is, Orlando Tubby Smith"
Per UK Athletics Release:
Smith was head coach of the Wildcats for 10 years, from the 1997-98 season through the 2006-07 campaign. His first team became known as the “Comeback Cats” after the Wildcats erased multiple double-digit deficits en route to a 35-4 record and UK’s seventh NCAA championship. Trailing Duke by 17 points, with less than 10 minutes to play in the South Regional final, the Wildcats stormed back to win 86-84. Down by 10 against Stanford in the second half of the NCAA semifinal, the Cats clawed back to force overtime and an eventual 86-85 victory. And, it wouldn’t have been fitting if UK hadn’t trailed Utah by 10 points at halftime of the title tilt, again rallying to take the trophy by a score of 78-69.
During his 10 seasons, Smith coached the Cats to at least 22 victories each season, totaling a 263-83 record (76.0%) with the Blue and White. His teams won five regular-season SEC championships and five SEC Tournament crowns, featuring a league championship (regular season or tournament) in seven of his 10 years at UK. His teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament in all 10 seasons, including six trips to the Sweet 16, and had a 23-9 record (71.9%) in the national playoffs.
Smith was notified by Barnhart via a surprise Zoom call earlier Tuesday.
“That’s very humbling,” Smith said 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.
“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, including fellow national championship coaches Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall and Rick Pitino. Current UK mentor John Calipari, also a national champion coach, was excited to learn the news.
“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.”