Tubby Smith to have jersey retired when Cats play High Point

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Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 8:04 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - The University of Kentucky Athletics Department announced Tuesday night that a jersey representing former head men’s basketball coach Orlando “Tubby” Smith will be retired during the season, according to a release from the university.

The ceremony will take place during UK’s December 31 home game against High Point, where Smith is currently the head coach.

“It is with great pride, enjoyment and a sense of excitement that we add one more name to the list of people who will see their names in the rafters of Rupp Arena and that’s Orlando ‘Tubby’ Smith,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “A national championship coach, National Coach of the Year, a gentleman who brought so much class, honor and excellence to UK, Tubby is special and so deserving. We are thankful to have the chance to honor him and will do so when his team comes to play the Cats in December. 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.”

During his ten years at Kentucky, Smith compiled a 263-83 record, taking the Cats to five SEC tournament championships, ten NCAA tournament appearances, including six appearances in the sweet sixteen and winning the 1998 NCAA Basketball Championship. Smith was also named the National Coach of the Year three times in 1998, 2003, and 2005.

Smith also was head coach at Tulsa, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Memphis before his current post at his alma mater High Point. He enters the upcoming season with a career head-coaching record of 631-355.

Smith was notified by Barnhart via a surprise Zoom call earlier Tuesday.

“That’s very humbling,” Smith said during the call. “I’m certainly grateful to have had the opportunity to lead that program. Some wonderful people there, wonderful fans. You can’t find better people. They have a passion for the game, not just basketball but for the Wildcats, period. Thank you for doing that. We’re looking forward to it.

“Do you have enough tickets for my family?” Smith continued, laughing. “You know we have 17 brothers and sisters – it’ll be an empty town in Scotland, Maryland!”

“Tubby and I have been friends for years,” current head coach John Calipari said. “He is so deserving of this honor. He won big here and he did it with class. Tubby impacted so many people in and around this program and he is loved by the players who played for him and by this fan base. I can’t wait to see his banner raised.”

Smith’s jersey will be the 45th to hang in the rafters of Rupp Arena, including coaches Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, and Rick Pitino, who all won national championships at Kentucky.

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