Well-traveled Tubby Smith continues 'journey of passion' at High Point his alma mater


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Nov 11, 2008
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per the Indy Star:

No, Tubby Smith says, he hasn’t sat down his High Point Panthers and shown them the tape of the 1998 NCAA Tournament final.

“I haven’t watched that tape in years,” the 67-year-old basketball coach says on a recent snowy afternoon after a pregame shootaround at Homer Drew Court.

Nor has Smith, who coached Kentucky past Utah on that glittering Monday night 20 years ago in San Antonio, attempted to inspire his Big South players by showing off his championship bling.

“I’ve never had it on,” he says several hours before securing career victory No. 601, a 55-53 nail-biter over Valparaiso. “I don’t even know where it is. It’s probably boxed up somewhere. My wife may have hocked it already.”

Here, the self-effacing Smith gives another of his throaty laughs. Getting fired from two of his past three jobs – Minnesota and Memphis with a stop at Texas Tech in between – will either make a man bitter or fearless.

For Smith, who had three years and $10 million left on his Memphis deal, the latter path was the only option.

That’s part of the reason he finds himself back at his alma mater, in the same sleepy furniture town in North Carolina where met his wife Donna when she was a freshman from Richmond and he was a hotshot senior from southern Maryland.

That was back in the early ‘70s, a lifetime ago, a few years after a freshly hired Maryland coach named Lefty Driesell made it clear that Smith, a Terrapins signee, might be better off playing at a smaller school.

“He didn’t have to say it out loud,” Smith says. “I took the hint. That was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

He soon began a coaching trek that started out at the high school level and also has included stops at Tulsa and Georgia. Flash isn’t part of his repertoire, but he still finds himself part of a recent trend of championship-winning coaches returning to the sideline in their Social Security years.

Jim Calhoun, 76, is starting up a new program at Division III St. Joseph in West Hartford. Football coaches Mack Brown, back at North Carolina at age 67, and 65-year-old Les Miles at Kansas are the others.


Go Gophers!!
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