‘Grateful’ Tubby Smith says upcoming Kentucky basketball honor is ‘humbling’

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

An assumption became fact Tuesday as Kentucky announced it will honor former coach Orlando “Tubby” Smith before the game against High Point on Dec. 31.

UK will retire a jersey in Smith’s honor, the school said. It will hang in the Rupp Arena rafters.

“It’s very humbling,” Smith said in a virtual appearance on the “BBN Tonight” television show. “We’re very grateful to have had an opportunity to lead that program.

“Some wonderful people there. Wonderful fans. You can’t find better people.”

Smith first came to UK in 1989 as an assistant coach for Rick Pitino, who faced the task of rebuilding a program saddled with a two-year ban from postseason play because of rules violations. With UK quickly reestablishing itself as a prominent program, he left after two seasons to begin a head coaching career.

Smith returned in 1997 to replace Pitino. In 10 years as head coach, he compiled a record of 263-83. His UK teams won five Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championships, advanced to five Elite Eight rounds of NCAA tournaments and won the 1998 national championship.

Jeff Sheppard, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the 1998 Final Four, welcomed the news of Kentucky displaying a jersey in Smith’s honor.

“I’m very excited,” Sheppard said Tuesday night. “Coach Smith is one of the father figures in my life that continues to influence me with the way that he lives, the way that he carries himself and treats other people.

“And I can’t wait to be at the game on the 31st and be a part of the celebration.”

The game will mark the first time Smith has been in Rupp Arena since leaving UK for Minnesota after the 2006-07 season.

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart appeared on the “BBN Tonight” show to make the announcement. Smith has already been inducted into UK’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

“We’re just excited that we get to do it,” Barnhart told Smith. “It’ll be a really, really fun night . . .

“And you tell us who you want there.”

This sparked Smith’s sense of humor. “Tickets for my family?!” he said in mock surprise.

Smith was the sixth of 17 children born to Guffrie and Parthenia Smith.

“It’ll be an empty town in Scotland, Maryland,” Smith quipped in reference to where he grew up.

In a news release, Barnhart spoke of the “great pride” and “enjoyment” that comes from announcing the jersey ceremony for Smith.

“A national championship coach, National Coach of the Year, a gentleman who brought so much class, honor and excellence to UK,” Barnhart said in the release. “Tubby is special and so deserving. We are thankful to have the chance to honor him. . . . A lot of folks are going to want to come back and be part of that time. Tubby and (wife) Donna contributed so much to the fabric of the University of Kentucky and we want to thank them in a special way.”

UK’s retired jerseys

Tubby Smith will join a list of 43 previous honorees associated with UK men’s basketball:

Cliff Barker (1947-49)

Ralph Beard (1946-49)

Jerry Bird (1954-56)

Sam Bowie (1980-81, 1984)

Bob Burrow (1955-56)

Burgess Carey (1925-26)

Johnny Cox (1957-59)

Louie Dampier (1965-67)

Tony Delk (1993-96)

John DeMoisey (1932-34)

Billy Evans (1952, 1954-55)

Richie Farmer (1989-92)

Deron Feldhaus (1989-92)

Jack Givens (1975-78)

Phil Grawemeyer (1954-56)

Kevin Grevey (1973-75)

Alex Groza (1945, 1947-49)

Cliff Hagan (1951-52, 1954)

Joe B. Hall (1973-85)

Vernon Hatton (1956-58)

Basil Hayden (1920-22)

Dan Issel (1968-70)

Wallace Jones (1946-49)

Bill Keightley (1962-2008)

Cawood Ledford (1953-92)

Kyle Macy (1978-80)

Jamal Mashburn (1991-93)

Cotton Nash (1962-64)

John Pelphrey (1989-92)

Rick Pitino (1990-97)

Frank Ramsey (1951-52, 1954)

Pat Riley (1965-67)

Rick Robey (1975-78)

Kenny Rollins (1943, 1947-48)

Gayle Rose (1952, 1954-55)

Layton Rouse (1938-40)

Adolph Rupp (1931-72)

Forest Sale (1931-33)

Carey Spicer (1929-31)

Bill Spivey (1950-51)

Lou Tsioropoulos (1951, 1952-54)

Kenny Walker (1983-86)

Sean Woods (1990-92)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting