Smith coaching trek nearly included stop at UMBC 10 years ago

November 13, 1998|By Paul McMullen

Ten years ago, Tubby Smith accepted, then turned down, what would have been his first head coaching position. It was at UMBC.

In the spring of 1988, UMBC had to replace Jeff Bzdelik, who left to become an NBA scout. Jim "Snuffy" Smith, a former Retrievers assistant who is now the girls' coach at Bryn Mawr, recommended a friend he had worked with at Virginia Commonwealth. Tubby Smith reached an agreement with UMBC become the program's fifth coach, but changed his mind.

"Things were in place at UMBC," said Smith, then an assistant at South Carolina. "I said yes, but it just didn't feel right. My wife wasn't ready to move back to Maryland. Sometimes the jobs you don't take make a difference. It was a longer path for me, but I think it worked out all right."

The UMBC athletic director at the time was Rick Hartzell, who later moved to Bucknell. He has officiated in the past 10 NCAA tournaments, and bumped into Smith several times.

"I kid him all the time," Hartzell said. "I say I was the first one to recognize his brilliance."

After Smith turned them down, the Retrievers eventually hired Earl Hawkins, who coached them for seven seasons.

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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