Back in Md., Smiths get direct line to big news On the scene in Texas, Kentucky coach's brother acts as family liaison

Men's notebook

March 31, 1998|By Don Markus and Paul McMullen | Don Markus and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF


cell phone in his ear.

"The phone's been busy all night," Odell Smith, one of Tubby Smith's 16 siblings, said as he watched the celebration after Kentucky's 78-69 victory over Utah in last night's NCAA championship game at the Alamodome.

The only one of Tubby Smith's brothers and sisters to make it to the game, Odell Smith was trying to call his parents, Guffrie Sr. and Parthenia, back in Scotland, Md.

"This is the greatest moment in the Smith family history," said Odell Smith. "I've known my brother is one of the greatest coaches ever for a long time, but this will let the rest of the world know."

A few feet away, two of Tubby and Donna Smith's sons, G. G. and Brian, were sitting on the team's bench while their parents, brother Saul and the rest of the Kentucky players were on the podium accepting the trophy and the roars of the crowd.

"I feel so proud of my father and my brother," said G. G. Smith, who played for his father for two years at Georgia and will be going back there for his senior year.

Brian Smith, 11, looked up at the celebration swirling around his father and brother and maybe imagined the day when he might be there himself. The youngest of the three brothers was the MVP at Michael Jordan's camp in Chicago last summer.

As he stood on the podium, the normally businesslike Tubby Smith looked out at the crowd and gave the "raise the roof" sign. The fans cheered even louder.

After taking the microphone and addressing the crowd, Smith thanked his players and Kentucky athletic director C. M. Newton for giving him the chance to coach the Wildcats after Rick Pitino left for the NBA last spring.

"It's certainly a dream come true for all of us," Smith said.

Smith became the only the second coach in his first year at a university to lead his team to the NCAA title, following Steve Fisher of Michigan in 1989.

A diplomatic Padgett

Scott Padgett helped Kentucky fans find a little revenge when he hit a big three-point shot in his team's 86-84 victory over Duke in last week's South Regional final. Last night, Padgett exacted revenge for himself.

Last summer, Padgett was among the final cuts on the U.S. under-22 team headed to the world championships in Australia. The team was coached by Utah's Rick Majerus and Padgett seemed to be a lock for a spot until he got into a shouting match during a game in Los Angeles.

The incident took place after Majerus saw Padgett yelling at another player.

"I went off on him big-time," Majerus said. "My coaching style is very direct. It's not for everybody. Sometimes it's hard to coach other people's players."

At the time, Padgett responded by yelling at Majerus: "I don't want to play for you!"

On Sunday, Padgett took a more diplomatic route.

"It was just a heat of battle-type thing," said Padgett, who later played on the World University Games team that earned gold.

Padgett and Majerus met in a hallway at the Alamodome on Friday and shook hands.

Said Majerus: "If we had more time, I think Scott and I could have ended up friends. But life's too short. He's certainly a good player and a good guy."

Bad memories

Nazr Mohammed doesn't want to remember much about last year's NCAA final against Arizona. In an 84-79 overtime loss to the Wildcats, Mohammed went 0-for-6 from the free-throw line.

"It was difficult for him," said Kentucky forward Allen Edwards, who rooms with Mohammed in Lexington. "A lot of people who were not part of the team were talking about it. But he realized that basketball was a game and he had to continue with his life."

Mohammed went from being a 50.6 percent free-throw shooter to 65.1 percent this season as a junior.

"I wish I had made them, but I didn't," he said. "It's in the past."

Mohammed scored 10 last night, without taking a free throw.

No mountain time

Majerus kidded that his Utes don't get a lot of air time during the season on ESPN "SportsCenter."

"They don't show a lot of ball screens," he said.

L Nor does he envision young players aspiring to play for him.

"There aren't a lot of kids who go to bed at night saying, 'I want to be a Running Ute,' " he said.

Ndiaye withdraws allegation

North Carolina's Makhtar Ndiaye apologized and withdrew his allegation that Utah's Britton Johnsen used a racial slur against him in Saturday's semifinal game.

The Tar Heels' senior forward continued to insist that he did not spit on Johnsen, something that on Sunday the Utes freshman still insisted that Ndiaye did.

"I was very upset after our loss and said some things I should not have said," Ndiaye said in a statement released by North Carolina yesterday.

"During the game, Britt Johnsen and I were doing some `f trash-talking, which was not right, but I did not spit on him nor did he use the N-word to me."

Esther Rupp dies

Esther Schmidt Rupp, widow of former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, died of natural causes at Central Baptist Hospital on Sunday. She was 95.

Adolph Rupp coached the Wildcats for 42 years (1930-1972) and finished his career as the winningest coach in the history of college basketball with a record of 876-190. He died Dec. 11, 1977, at the age of 76.

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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