By Kevin Faris
This afternoon, at 2:00, way over in Phoenix, AZ (home of the University of Phoenix, one our country's most prestigious academic institutions) the Golden Gophers of Minnesota will take on the Dirty Cards of Louisville. This basketball game, surely to be played in front of thousands and thousands of empty seats, is interesting to UK fans for one reason. Each team is coached by a former Wildcat coach, Tubby Smith at Minnesota and Rick Pitino at Louisville.
What has been surprising to me is not that Internet message boards and LHL columnists have been wondering who UK fans should root for, it is the answer to this question that is surprising. Overwhelmingly, UK fans are saying they are rooting for Pitino over Tubby. This makes absolutely zero sense to me. None. You might as well tell me that Lexington voted in a mayor who does absolutely nothing and then put the intelligent and competent person as #2. Oh wait, we did do that. Bad comparison.
Anyway, this choice, Tubby or Pitino, is not a debate about who is the better coach or who had a better career. If that was the case the winner is hands down Pitino. What he did at UK, three Final Fours, one NCAA title, and and a ton of SEC hardware, and when he did it, coming off probation, is absolutely amazing. When you rank the all time UK coaches, Pitino is at worst #3 and at best #2. Tubby had a very good UK career, but unfortunately near the end either did not or would not put in the work necessary for high caliber recruitment. Overall career and UK career accomplishments place Pitino firmly ahead of Tubby.
But this is not about who was the better UK coach. Although I was glad when Tubby left, because I thought it was best for both parties, I hold no animosity toward the man. That is what is surprising from reading articles and message boards. There is a lot of Tubby-hate out there in Wildcat Country. Why? Because he recruited poorly for a couple of years? Really. That's why you would root for a guy who coaches our biggest rival over him? Tubby Smith is a class act who has never, ever said one negative word about his time at UK, despite ample opportunity. At the very least, he deserves our respect and I can think of no other way than rooting for the classy guy over the Cleveland Clinic scumbag at UL.
If you want to root for UL and Pitino today, fine. This is a free country. Personally, I would not root for UL if they were playing a team of Al-Queda all stars coached by the reincarnated body of Adolph Hitler, but that's just me.