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Kentucky Offers Pitino Job to Tubby Smith

College basketball: Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley says Bulldog coach is likely to accept Wildcat post.

May 09, 1997|From Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. — Kentucky has offered its coaching job to Tubby Smith, a former Rick Pitino assistant who led Georgia to consecutive 20-win seasons, Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley said Thursday.

Dooley said Smith flew to Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday night to meet with Wildcat Athletic Director C.M. Newton.

"I do know that they would like to have him in Kentucky," Dooley said. "He was offered the job. It's his job to either take or turn down. More than likely, knowing the situation, he would probably take the job."

Dooley said Smith was meeting with his family and friends before deciding whether to accept the Kentucky offer. One of Smith's sons, G.G., is a point guard at Georgia and another son, Saul, recently committed to play for the Bulldogs next season.

Smith could not immediately be reached for comment, but Dooley said he expected a quick decision and already was compiling a list of candidates as Smith's successor.

Pitino was at Kentucky for eight seasons, leading the Wildcats to the 1996 national championship, but resigned Tuesday to become coach of the Boston Celtics.

"It's one of the truly great coaching jobs," Dooley said of Kentucky. "On the other hand, it's not an easy decision for him [Smith]. I think it's a difficult situation. There are some family considerations."

Dooley said he had not talked with Smith since the coach returned from his meeting with Newton, but said he expected a decision either Thursday night or this morning.

Newton said Kentucky would have no comment until a coach was in place.

An offer from Kentucky would be for five years and probably would exceed $1 million a year. Pitino had a contract with Kentucky reportedly worth $2 million annually.

Smith recently agreed to a contract extension at Georgia that would have been worth $605,000 annually in salary and benefits over the next six years. The school also agreed to begin funding an annuity that would have paid Smith $500,000 for staying for the length of his contract.

The new contract was offered to Smith after he was pursued by Ohio State a couple of months ago. The coach has not yet signed the new deal and there is no buyout clause, which leaves him free to leave Georgia without worrying about the financial ramifications.

Dooley said he knew all along that no amount of money would likely be able to keep Smith if the Kentucky job opened up.

"I think we've gone the extra mile with coach Smith," said Dooley, who said he didn't intend to make a counter-offer. "I felt from the very beginning when he came to Georgia that there was no other job he would leave here for except Kentucky."

Smith, who employs an aggressive, up-tempo style similar to Pitino's, would inherit a Kentucky program that went to the Final Four three of the last five years, winning the title in 1996 and finishing second to Arizona last season.

Smith was an assistant under Pitino at Kentucky from 1989-91, and was associate head coach the second season.

He left to become coach at Tulsa, where he compiled a 79-43 record and guided the Golden Hurricanes to two NCAA tournament appearances in four seasons.

Smith, 45, has been at Georgia for two seasons and has compiled a 45-19 record with two NCAA trips.

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