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Bang the drum slowly

Folks seem to be surprised at my frustration-induced about-face on dear Ole Orlando Smith. I thought I'd take a free, less bugged out, minute to explain things.

First and foremost, I want it to be clear that I think Tubby Smith can win at Kentucky and win big. Nothing would make me happier than a Final Four-attending, SEC title-winning Tubby Smith-led Kentucky program.

But for all the myriad reasons we pontificate, he continues to show that he doesn't seem capable of actually winning big with this group of players. Will another season of Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Randolph Morris be different? Hard to know.

But as we talk about Smith's place at Kentucky -- a subject that deserves our attention and is, increasingly, pertinent, there are a few more things important to note:

  • Kentucky's 72-61 loss to Bama was its third straight in the SEC. The skid is only the second time since Eddie Sutton's program imploded in 1988-89 that a UK team has dropped three straight conference games. The other time? Last February.
  • The loss dropped Kentucky to 18-8 (7-5) on the season, with losses to Florida, Tennessee, Vandy, Alabama and Georgia. Our thoughts were that UK was much improved from last season. At this point in 2006, Kentucky was 16-9 (6-5). The conference losses were to Florida, Tennessee, Vandy, Alabama and Vandy again.
  • Tubby Smith is now the SEC's longest-tenured coach, at 12 years (2 at Georgia). He is Kentucky's third-longest tenured coach, after Rupp and Hall, owns the UK season with the most wins (35 in 1998) and has won at a .77% clip overall at UK, third-best after Pitino and Rupp.
I am fully aware of the things that Tubby Smith -- or any head coach -- can and cannot do. Let's take a quick refresher:

Some things Tubby cannot do

(1) Shoot threes
(2) Shoot free throws
(3) Play defense
(4) Make players run plays correctly in games
(5) Make the other team miss shots

Some things Tubby can do

(1) Get his players ready for each game
(2) Find the right mix of players at any given time
(3) Keep players focused
(4) Call set plays and pieces that are working
(5) Recruit/sign players that can play both offense and defense

Obviously, this is a simplistic and incomplete list. But lest you think I am just a "Fahr Tubby!" guy, I am not advocating change for change's sake. That's just stupid.

However, I don't see why if your team is underperforming consistently -- and we fans still act surprised when the Cats lose to good teams, despite clear trending in the negative direction -- against peer-level competition, that the person in charge is not at least in part responsible.

I've said it before, and I'll repeat it, that the major college coach is more CEO than teacher. That may have been different at Tulsa, or even Georgia, but at Kentucky it's delegation, representation and presentation. Delegation of player development and scouting, representation of your institution and program and presentation of the finished product each game.

Tubby has done some of these well, occasionally -- like 2003 -- off-the-charts well. But the last two seasons, he's done only the second without failure. The other two have been hit or miss, with the misses coming at glaringly inopportune times.

Scrub the 'Tub? Not yet. But blind devotion to what's not working is not a good recipe for success either.