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Both Kentucky, Celtics Come Out Big Winners


Saturday nights on the farm, Parthenia Smith put the silvery tub next to the kitchen stove for her children to take a bath.

All week the tub was used for washing clothes and carrying vegetables and catching fallout from the hog butcherings. The Smiths lived so far down Maryland's southern peninsula that, another mile or so, the 17 brothers and sisters could have jumped into the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday nights.

Parthenia Smith ran fresh water into the tub after every third or fourth child. But her son Orlando liked splashing around so much he didn't want to get out. So she called him Tubby -- a piece of family history that prompts a question. How did a young man tall and lean handle a name such as Tubby?

Well, when you're one of 19 people on the farm, you don't much care what you're called as long as you're called for supper.

The name now has cachet. There's one Madonna, there's one Tubby. Once Rick Pitino's assistant, now his successor as the University of Kentucky basketball coach, Tubby Smith is the next coaching superstar.

Of the few things certain in this world, one is that Rick Pitino will win big with the Boston Celtics. He is the best coach in the business working for an organization smart enough to act on today's pro sports reality that money is power. If the coach is common labor, players ignore him. By making Pitino the $70 million executive coach, the Celtics told players, "We love you guys. But we love Ricky best. Get on board. Or get outta town."

Here is another certainty: Tubby Smith will win big at Kentucky. I said this aloud the other day and a colleague asked, "You're saying that Kentucky, who could have hired any coach in this country, has done a good thing by hiring Tubby Smith? You're telling me he's one of the five best coaches in the country?"

Absolutely. It's a judgment that comes as small surprise to anyone paying attention to college basketball in this decade. While Pitino rebuilt Kentucky to its old dynastic proportions, Smith did wonders in his first head coaching jobs. He did the good work in states better known for football, first at Tulsa and then Georgia. He took both schools to the NCAA Tournament's round of 16. He gave Georgia its first successive 20-victory seasons ever.

"My father always said to keep working and something good will happen," Smith says. Then, with a smile: "It's like some assistant coaches today. They'll be working five years and say they're never going to get the head job they want. Five years? Try 17 years -- 17 years before I got to this level."

As he speaks, Smith holds a sheet of paper. On it is typed:


OBJECTIVES: 1. Start Work on Auburn. 2. Improve Intensity. 3. Play our Game.

3:30-3:45 Stretch and Warmup.

3:45-3:50 2-Man Fastbreak.

3:50-3:52 Zig Zag.

3:52-3:55 1-on-1 Driving Lane.

3:55-3:58 2-on-2 Overplay & Sag.

3:58-4:02 4-on-4 Overplay, Sag & Trap -- Close Out.

4:02-4:10 5-on-5 Screen on the Ball -- Box Out -- 1 Transition.

4:10-4:20 Circle Transition Ball Baskets Man.

4:20-4:35 Attacking 1-3-1 Zone.

4:35-4:45 Attacking 1-3-1 Half-Court Press.

4:45-4:55 Press Offense vs 1-2-1-1.

4:55-5:10 Work on 2-3 & 3-2.

5:10-5:20 Motion Work.

5:20-5:30 Time & Score Situations.

QUOTE: "The World stands aside to let anyone pass who knows where he's going."


Academic Reminder:

1. Get Ahead of Game.

2. Sit towards front of class.

At 4:37, as his players worked against a half-court press, Tubby Smith notices a small thing he had first seen on videotape. One defender had been beaten by long passes because he backpedaled rather than sprinted back. The coach raises his voice: "Sprint back. That's what we didn't do at South Carolina. Sprint back on defense."

With the attention to detail suggested by Practice Plan 96, Smith created a Georgia team last season that was practically Kentucky's twin. Both played 40 minutes of full-court pressure offensively and defensively. Whatever superiority Kentucky had over Georgia came mostly from a 50-year head start in recruiting.

At the same time, and even Smith would agree, Kentucky had the better coach. Only 44 and in his second decade as a head coach, Pitino has taken four moribund programs and made them vital: Boston University, Providence College, the New York Knicks and Kentucky.

I became a Pitino believer one day last summer when I watched him work his basketball camp with 200 high school players.

Players flew up and down the court, but Pitino recognized the significance of everyone's movement even as that movement created kaleidoscopic changes baffling to the untrained eye.

"STOP," he said during a 3-on-2 break. "STAND STILL! LIKE A STATUE! You know why he made that turnover? You went below the block. That's death valley. Never go down there."

Another time: "STOP! STAY STILL! We don't take a challenged shot. You know Oscar Robertson? The Michael Jordan of his day. You understand how difficult it is to get a triple-double. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for his career (Actually, it was for a season). And he said the toughest thing to learn is when to shoot and when not to shoot. If somebody's challenging you, don't shoot."

So the question is not if Pitino will win an NBA championship with the Celtics. The question is when. The man himself has provided a clue by contracting to coach only six years of his 10-year contract.

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