Tubby Smith’s jersey set to hang in Rupp’s rafters


Tubby Smith’s jersey retirement | UK Athletics

Barkley Truax

Former national championship-winning Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith‘s name is set to become immortalized in the rafters at Rupp Arena, UK Athletics announced Tuesday night.

The jersey is set to go up when Smith’s High Point Panthers take on Kentucky in Lexington Dec. 31–a game that will serve as his homecoming after leaving the program in 2007. 

“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,” UK Athletic 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.”

From 1997-2007, Smith coached Kentucky to a 263-83 overall record. While in Lexington, his Kentucky teams won five regular-season SEC championships and five SEC Tournaments and never missed an NCAA Tournament with Smith at the helm.

Most memorably, he was the man behind the 1998 National Championship squad that has since been dubbed ‘The Comeback Cats.’ Smith won three National Coach of the Year (1998, 2003, 2005) honors throughout his head coaching tenure as well.

Barnhart gave Smith a call earlier in the day Tuesday to break the news to the UK Athletics Hall of Famer.

“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.”

Smith will join former Kentucky coaches Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall and Rick Pitino to have their jersey retired and hung in the rafters inside Rupp Arena. Current Kentucky coach John Calipari addressed the news Tuesday night as well.

“Tubby and I have been friends for years,” 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.”