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Mitch Barnhart Talks About Tubby Smith

Q: How have you, aside from the loss to Mississippi State, down
the stretch the last couple of weeks have you seen any sort of
progress?

A: Well, you know that I think that's Tubby's job in terms of
gauging player-personnel issues. He's the CEO of our basketball
program, and those are the things that he needs to be - that he
needs to pay attention to, more so than me. I sort of look at the
whole program in total and where we are going in terms of direction
and what we are trying to do in terms of growing our program to the
position everybody wants it to be in. I would hope that I would
take a more global look at our basketball program and our athletic
department and let the specifics fall to the coaches.

Q: I believe this was the point of the football season - after
the regular season had ended, before the bowl game - that you came
out, at least publicly, and said, 'I'd like Rich Brooks to be back
as coach next year' - talking about contract extensions and
whatnot. As you look at a basketball program at the same point, is
one of the options on the table a change in the head coaching
position?

A: You know, I don't - I think what I'll, I'll stick by the
statement I made earlier on. When we get to the end of the year,
we'll sit down. Tubby's our basketball coach. He's done a great job
of representing the platform of Kentucky basketball. We'll always
look to make adjustments to the things we've got to do to get
better. Tubby and I will do that collectively. And he's won - his
winning percentage is .700-plus, whatever it is - 70-plus, however
you do your percentages. He's been, since I've been here, we've won
a couple conference championships, we've been to two Elite Eights,
we've been the No. 1 seed twice. We've had a couple years here that
have been a little un-Kentuckylike, but I don't think that's a
reason to panic or to put ourselves in a position where we're not
making objective calls in terms of the things we need to do to be
better.

Q: When you put out that statement there was a lot of
speculation, particularly among fans, that Tubby's on the
quote-unquote hot seat. Is that reading too much into it?

A: Yeah, they're reading way too much into that. I think that
what they need to understand is, I was getting a lot of requests
from people to comment on Kentucky basketball. And I felt like I
wanted people to understand we were paying attention to it. And we
clearly understand the frustration, but we also are clear to, you
know, that we'll work at it at the end of the year to figure out
what we need to do to be better - to get where we want to be. With
the understanding that, you know, fourth in our division is not
where we want to be. And, you know, 8th seeds - although we're in
tournament - not probably where Kentucky's used to being. So, those
are things. I think people read way too much into it, but I wasn't
going to sit down with every person individually and I wasn't going
to sit down with every television radio station or media person
individually. I wasn't going to answer every e-mail individually.
So, I just globally wanted people to understand, look, we're paying
attention. We'll do, we'll make the adjustments at the end of the
year we need to make, and we'll get on with it. By not saying
something, everybody, I think would have thought we didn't care or
we weren't paying attention to the things that were going on in our
program.

Q: There have been reports - published, radio reports whatnot -
that you or your administration has approached Tubby about
assistant coaching changes, both last year and this. Can you
comment on?

A: No, I'm not going to do that. We're always going to try and
get better. And Tubby and I have talked about, you know, what do we
need to do to be better? Those are conversations we have all the
time. That's no different than I do with any other coach. You know,
we sit down with all our coaches at the end of the year - what have
we done well, what have we not done well, what do we need to do to
make the progress we want to be? Our goal in this department,
across the board, is to achieve the five things we talk
collectively and the principles of our program. There's five things
in there. One of those five things is competitiveness, and we talk
about competing for championships. Not just SEC championships,
that's the big championship. That's the goal is to do that in our
sports programs, and we're gaining ground on that in a lot of our
sports programs. Basketball's had the good fortune of having been
there seven times. That's a little bit of a stage for them - a
standard, not a stage - a standard for them to have to aspire to
that's a little different from the rest of our sports programs. We
do that. This is our operation - the way we run our operation - is
very similar from sport to sport. It doesn't vary from track to
baseball, from soccer to rifle, from football to basketball. We're
pretty consistent in the way we run those, and the expectation
levels and the way we operate year in and year out, the way we
treat the adjustments we need to make is pretty consistent.

Q: When you gave Brooks the extension, I think the thinking
behind - I'm not going to put words in your mouth - but the reason
you extend a coach's contract four years as opposed to one is so
that a recruit that comes in here can be satisfied that the coach
who recruited me will be my coach when I'm a junior or senior. I
don't have to tell you that rumors are Kentucky basketball is
looking at some pretty high - top national recruits - including
this class, some of whom have not yet declared an intent for this
coming season. Do you see any way that a perception of instability
in the basketball coaching could affect their decision?

A: Tubby's got four years, after this year, he'll have four
years left on his contract. I don't think there's any instability
in that. We made a commitment for the long-term with Tubby and
we're glad to have him as our basketball coach. He's worked hard at
it. I don't think in the world of college athletics there's a lot
of stable things anymore. There's a lot of movement in the world of
college athletics. I've seen a lot of recruits go to places, and
the next year the coach will go to the pros or something like that,
and the next year the guy says, hey I wasn't planning on that.
Well, that's the way it's changed. We try to provide as much
stability as we can through the contracts we create and the
facilities we have. We've got to let nature take its course, so to
speak. We're doing as good a job as we can at providing that
environment for our coaches and our recruits.

Q: But if a recruit were to look at Kentucky and say, "I want
to sign here," you see no reason why that recruit shouldn't expect
Tubby Smith to be his coach when he's a junior or senior?

A: No.

Q: Do you think the fan criticisms get to Tubby?

A: I don't think you could be in our business, I mean you could
sit here and say that it doesn't get to you. Whether sitting in
this chair as athletic director, or head basketball coach or head
football coach. I think you get a little numb to it at times.
Having said that, you hear it. What bothers me most is people can
be so disrespectful to people as human beings. I feel bad for
coaches when they're not treated as human beings. I think that
there's, I want people to be treated well. There's a way to do
things right, and there's a way to not do them. I think the goal is
to treat people well. I hope that Tubby knows there is a large
number of people out there that love him - that think highly of him
and his family, the way they've represented Kentucky.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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