Tubby Receives UK Honors Back In The Bluegrass

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Tubby Smith was back in Rupp Arena, once again wearing blue. But this time, the outfit was a gown and the title was doctor, not coach.

Smith returned for the first time Sunday to the floor where he spent a decade leading the Wildcat basketball program. He was on hand to get an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree at UK's commencement.

"It is a little bit nostalgic, a little bit emotional," Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press.

A former governor, Paul Patton, received the same degree and a decorated admiral, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, gave one of the speeches. However, Smith's star power in his old Kentucky home produced the loudest and longest ovation from the graduates and others who attended the ceremony.

Smith, who left the program prior to last season to take the same job with Minnesota, was honored largely for his philanthropic role in the Lexington community.

His Tubby Smith Foundation donated more than $2.3 million to programs for underprivileged children, and he established Tubby's Clubhouse to hone technology skills for low-income, high-risk students.

Although there was rampant speculation after his departure that he left because of a demanding fan base that would accept nothing short of an annual Final Four appearance, Smith said he would love to return to Kentucky someday as a retiree.

"I spent more time here than I have anywhere else in my coaching career," Smith said. "I feel like this is home."

His trip back to the Bluegrass wasn't just for one day. Last week, he was inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame in Louisville, and Saturday he made his usual trek to the Kentucky Derby, betting on eventual third-place finisher Denis of Cork.

Smith said he almost didn't attend the Derby this year because the trip for the first time lacked his close friend and longtime UK equipment manager Bill Keightley, who died last month. Ultimately he attended, alongside Keightley's wife, Hazel, and daughter, Karen.

"I really miss the guy," Smith said. "He's here in spirit, I'm sure. He spent as much of his life in this building as anyone."

One stop Smith was determined to make in his Lexington return was a trip to the new basketball locker rooms, which were installed shortly after he left. He initially joked he was jealous, then said the upgrades were a source of pride for him.

"You feel like you've had a part," he said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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  • by tim Location: cynthiana on May 7, 2008 at 04:08 AM
    to sheila.a true uk fan cares.why comment.i personally have uk ties .my father graduated with a drgree in engineering.i love uk.again tubby smith is still a class act.who cares,terrible comment,no class!!!!!!!!
  • by Logan on May 6, 2008 at 07:57 AM
    If UNC,UCLA,Kansas, or Duke don't make the final four in the next ten years you can bet every penny you have their coaches will feel the heat! Why should UK be any different? BTW, UNC,UCLA,Kansas,Duke, and Louisville have never even interviewed a black man for head coach, so why don't they catch the flack UK does for getting rid of an underacheiving one? It's a catch 22 and they know it!
  • by Charlie Location: Lexington on May 5, 2008 at 12:43 PM
    That was nice. Too bad he kind of gave up and quit trying to win ball games.
  • by Carey Location: Richmod on May 5, 2008 at 11:15 AM
    Welcome back Tubby. You are always welcomed here. Your work to help those less fortunate and to help the players be men will always be appreciated.
  • by Sheila Location: Richmond on May 5, 2008 at 10:45 AM
    who cares !!!
  • by Bill Location: Prestonsburg, KY on May 5, 2008 at 08:18 AM
    I echo the fact that Tubby is a class act. His teams always played good tight defense and there was always class showed by the players. I for one was saddened at his being forced to go elsewhere. Good Luck and God bless You . Thanks for all the good times at Rupp.
  • by pr thompson Location: corbin on May 5, 2008 at 05:10 AM
    It's great to see Tubby back in Lexington, I'm sure someone in Lexington will fine Tubby a home for his retired life. Thanks PR
  • by Jeb Location: KY on May 5, 2008 at 04:34 AM
    Whether or not you liked, disliked or were neutral on Tubby's coaching style, the one thing I think we all can agree upon is that he is a class act.
  • by tim Location: cynthiana on May 4, 2008 at 06:14 PM
    i am a tubby smith fan.i'm very proud of him not only as a coach but as a human being.i miss him as a coach.he was not appreciated.i guess 20 wins and trips to the ncaa tournament aren't good enough.you know there are plenty of schools that would love to get one trip to the big dance.his 98 team did win the championship.i don't want to hear anything about pitino,he took the money and left.good for him,he's won a lot of championships since he left uk.your a good man tubby,best of luck at minn.

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