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Smith, Tubby(1955–) - Basketball coach, Chronology

university head coaching school

Tubby Smith is one of just six coaches to have led three different programs into the NCAA tournament’s sweet sixteen, capped by the 1997–98 University of Kentucky squad that won a national title. In thirteen seasons, he has never posted a losing record, and his teams have qualified for the NCAA tournament eleven straight times. He became one of the highest paid collegiate coaches in the profession, as well as one of the most generous.

Orlando Henry Smith was born in Scotland, Maryland on June 30, 1951 to Guffrie and Parthenia Smith. The sixth of seventeen children, Orlando grew up on a farm on the tip of the southwestern peninsula. Orlando acquired his nickname “Tubby” early on, owing to his delight in bathing in an old utility tub. Guffrie Smith, who had been awarded a Purple Heart during World War II while serving in Italy, was a farmer who worked several other jobs in order to support his large, but close-knit brood, including barber, school bus driver, construction worker, and maintenance man. Though the children were expected to complete their fair share of farm chores, the elder Smiths were keen on seeing their offspring attend school. Tubby attended segregated schools, including George Carver High School, until transferring to the newly consolidated and integrated Great Mills High School in tenth grade. At Great Mills, Smith played football, basketball, and track, earning all-state honors on the court in 1969, his senior season.

Although Smith was recruited by and signed to play basketball at the University of Maryland, a coaching change in 1969 resulted in the scholarship being Page 610  rescinded. Fortunately, Smith was offered a scholarship by High Point College, a small, Methodist-affiliated school in High Point, North Carolina. Having grown up in a Methodist church, Smith found the college to be a good fit. He excelled in basketball at High Point, where he was a four-year letter winner (from 1970 to 1973) and All-Carolina Conference selection as a senior. This despite the fact that he played under three different head coaches, including J. D. Barnett, who would later play a vital role in Smith’s coaching career. Additionally, Smith was honored by being named a team co-captain for his junior season and team captain his senior season. Smith graduated from High Point in 1973 with a B.S. degree in health and physical education.

After graduation, Smith headed home, hoping to be drafted by the NBA or at least get a chance to try out with the league’s Baltimore Bullets. Neither of those opportunities, however, came to pass. Instead, a slightly different opportunity arose when the superintendent of Great Mills High School approached Smith when the head-coaching job opened. Rather than following through with his fallback plan to pursue a master’s degree before moving into coaching, Smith jumped at the chance to immediately become a head coach. At Great Mills, with the added difficulties of learning on the job and having to coach some of his own brothers and other relatives, Smith compiled a 46-36 record in four years. From there, he returned to North Carolina, where he led Hoke County High School, located in Raeford, to a two-year record of 28-18.

In 1979, Smith was able to make the leap to college coaching when he was chosen to become an assistant coach at Virginia Commonwealth University by J. D. Barnett, Smith’s former coach at High Point College. It was under Barnett that Smith began formulating his long-term coaching philosophy. Smith would later say in a news release for Hawaii Pacific University: “I learned the game of basketball from J.D., and still use defensive and offensive plays at Kentucky that he taught me. He has a brilliant mind, is a great motivator, and is someone I still consult with.” In all, Smith spent seven years at VCU, the first six under Barnett. VCU enjoyed a 144-64 record while Smith was on the staff, winning three Sun Belt Conference championships and making the NCAA tournament field five times.

Smith’s next stop was the University of South Carolina, where for three seasons he was an assistant coach under head coach George Felton. The Gamecocks posted a 53-35 record during Smith’s stay. A decade later, Smith would reverse the roles by hiring Felton as an assistant at the University of Kentucky from 1998 to 2000. When Rick Pitino was building his staff at the University of Kentucky in 1989, he took the advice of athletic director C.M. Newton and brought Smith in as an assistant. Newton had been impressed with Smith while the former was the head basketball coach at Vanderbilt University and the latter was an assistant at South Carolina. Smith worked for Pitino from 1989 through 1991, during the time that Pitino laid the foundation for reversing the fortunes of Kentucky basketball, returning it to the lofty heights of previous eras. At each stop, Smith added to, and developed, his coaching strategies. He also learned to network in the profession. In a 1999 interview with Scholastic Coach & Athletic Director , Smith is quoted as saying: “It always goes back to the people you meet. The relationships you develop mean so much down the road. Good people don’t burn bridges behind them. They build bridges. I know that concept has helped me every step of the way.”



Born in Scotland, Maryland on June 30


Accepts first coaching job at Great Mills High School as head coach


Joins the staff of head coach J. D. Barnett at Virginia Commonwealth University


Accepts first head coaching job at the University of Tulsa


Becomes first black head basketball coach at the University of Georgia


Becomes the University of Kentucky’s first black head basketball coach


Coaches Kentucky to an NCAA championship and a 35-4 record


Wins 10 national coach of the year honors after leading Kentucky to a 32-4 record

Smith, Will(1955–) - Actor, rap musician, Launches Television Career, Chronology, Early Movie Career, Continues Success, Stars in Ali [next] [back] Smith, Theobald

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