Hoosier Scoop Sage Take, Jan. 12, 2013

HOOSIER SCOOP SAGE TAKE for Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013

The Sage Taker comes out of self-imposed hibernation long enough to relate a quick tale germane to today’s basketball game matching up the nation’s No. 5 and No. 8 teams at Indiana’s Assembly Hall.

It’s about how Tubby Smith was really nice to two kids he didn’t know, when he really didn’t have to be.

Tubby, presently during a superb job coaching Minnesota’s Gilded Rodentia, er, Golden Gophers, was coaching Kentucky back in 2004 when the story commences.

The annual Indiana-Kentucky high school basketball All-Star series was conducting its Indianapolis game up at what was then called Conseco Fieldhouse. I had begun my nine-year hiatus from the H-T sports department a couple of summers earlier, so I was attending the gameas a fan, and brought both of my sons along.

As Alex, Evan and I came up to the main Conseco entrance, I was preparing to hold the door for the boys and looked up to see Tubby Smith walking right behind us, with some of his UK staff, including his son Saul. Tubby and I made eye contact, and he stuck out his hand. He and I had previously talked more than once when I was covering Indiana’s Hoosiers in games with Kentucky, so he knew me well enough to say hello.

And he could have just said hello and moved on, and that would have been fine, and what I would have expected. But he stopped. We shook hands and made some quick introductions. Alex and Evan were adorned with IU apparel, which has long been their wont, and Tubby said they “looked sharp.”

Tubby then crouched so he could speak to my boys eye-to-eye. He conversed with them for a couple of minutes. About basketball. About the fine weather conditions. About what it was like to coach at Kentucky. About sundry things.

And Tubby Smith absolutely could not have been any nicer to a pair of boys bedecked in IU gear he had just met. And smiling all the while, he finally gave them high fives, and stood back up to hold the door for them.

I’ve seen IU’s Tom Crean do the same sort of thing many times. Among Crean’s many attributes is that, while he’s very good to the public in general, he seems especially good with kids.

It’s the sort of thing not every big-time coach does. But the good ones do.

I’ll think about that today when watching Tubby’s team play today in what shapes up as a terrific game, as I do every time I see one of his teams play. I’ll recall how “starry-eyed and laughing,” to borrow Dylan’s phrase, my boys were after their encounter with him.

And I’ll still be grateful.


  1. Andy,

    Welcome back. Great story. My daughter was a similar age when we attended one of the fan experiences at the convention center. Tubby was coaching at Georgia (I believe) and was giving a kid’s clinic.

    He was very personable and I agree that he is one of the good guys in coaching.

  2. I always liked Tubby, even though I have no personal stories to offer. He seems like a classy guy– too classy for our neighbors to the south. Felt bad the way he was railroaded out of Lexington, but was was glad to see him go to a program I could root for. We, expect for today, of course…

  3. Talked to a buddy of mine last nite who is a huge Kaintuck fan and when I told him, “Kentucky ran off Tubby because he wasn’t a cheater”, he said, “You’re right.”

    My friend openly admits they have a dirty program all the time. I told he he needed to ask for a refund for the payments they gave to the players this year and he laughed and said, “You’re right.”

    Great story.

  4. Why Laffy, whatever are you talking about? Are you suggesting that a coach who had all of his accomplishments wiped out from his first two schools hasn’t miraculously changed his cheating ways? Say it ain’t so. I’m sure there’s nothing unscrupulous about the way he still brings in the top recruiting class year after year. I think the only real question is: how long will last year’s championship stand before that’s wiped from the record books, too?

    Tubby seems like a good man, and had by all accounts averaged 26 wins per year by doing it the right way. Shame that wasn’t good enough for that bloodthirsty fan base down there.

  5. Tubby out coached Crean today as he usually does. Tubby make 2nd half adjustments, we didn’t. I like Tubby, but Crean has been in this league long enough now that opposing B1G coaches should not out coach him.

  6. Oh, Debbie, still not too bright. Pick up a win against a top ten team and you’re convinced we were out coached.

    You’d better get back to the counter.

  7. Chet–

    We blew a 23 point lead at home.

    Half of that gone in the first 5 min. of the second half.

    I’d say “bad coaching” was part of it.

    Sure is odd how most fans called Davis an idiot when teams performed poorly under him.

    Why did the black guy get ALL the blame when he was in charge but fans are “idiots” for blaming the white coach?

  8. Debbie the troll strikes again. Maybe Debbie was previously scorned by Crean. You know, he’ll hath no furry like…….

  9. Funny how some want to bastardize our coach for the second half, but give him no credit for the first. Which is it? Am I to assume that it was just the players who romped to a huge lead against a top ten team, and the coach who coughed it up with poor shooting and ridiculous turnovers later on?

  10. Not sure who or what they want to ‘bastardize’ Punjab. I think (mostly from what I read here from people who do not appear to be coaches), there is some feeling about the ‘game coaching’. I don’t know where it comes from; perhaps as much from his own ‘hyper-activity’ or his unique and somewhat magical history that led him to the Hoosier bench.

    I’d confess some uneasiness a year ago or so but I certainly have to admit I had to rethink it given how far the Hoosiers have come and what I have seen.

    There is something that is undeniable. Someone or a combination of ‘someones’ in his staff is doing one hell of a job developing the players individually. They all seem to grow by leaps and bound, from March-November; even during/within the season. I can’t think of a single player who was not significantly better from their arrival. (It’s also the reason why I have no reservations about the future of a Hanner-Perea or Jurkin or any other player here).

    Whether it is someone on the staff who is a particularly good teacher, more than one, or how the staff and responsibilities are distributed, assigned and joined; or some method by Crean himself I don’t know. I only have some ideas, but it is clear and noticeable that they simply get better. Look at Dipo’s shooting, Watford’s, Elston’s….; the ball handling. The difference of the ‘biute’ in the defense when we play it well.

    Additionally, there are some individuals on this planet who can see a kid walk and can ‘visualize’ what that player will be like if molded and developed. Crean is showing (with product) he may have a very clear talent to ‘spot’ potential ‘star’/top level players. We (IU) can field 4-5 now when only one of them was at that level to begin with. And 3-4 of them have ‘jumped’ 2-3 levels to get there. (He’s also made 3-4 more ‘adequate/acceptable B1G team players with some others).

    And, whatever he says, it’s clear players from all over the country seem to be believed and attracts. He is one he__ of a recruiter.

    I’m not sure (meaning exactly that) I’ve come to a conclusion about the ‘game coaching’. I see things that are really, really to be admired (some pieces of games that are really outstanding…i.e., the first half v. Minnesota Saturday may be the best half of basketball I’ve seen at Assembly Hall since I began watching IU during Walter Bellamy, Tom Bolyard, Van Arsdale days (1960+). Some of the ‘bad’ moments… the same group has had make me wonder if we’ll ever win another game.

    At moments, their intensity, focus and ‘natural’ cohesiveness seem to be at the level of ‘Art’ for pretty long stretches. And, at times the same group can go for minutes looking like they’re lost, confused and looking for ‘mommy’. I’ll look for the bench and see the blur of TC drinking whatever is in that bottle and all I can do is let out a nervous laugh.

    The thing is that they (both sides of the equation) are true. To a great extent the list of pluses I’ve listed probably much more extensive than the list of minuses…and the man is the professional we hired. So I figure he’s a lot better at it than I am at being a spectator since I have to pay the cable company.

    Not so sure they are ‘bastardizing’ him as much as wishing they were him.

  11. It is funny how often people throw out the phrase, “out coached” but usually give no examples of what that coaching deficit was.

    Minnesota attached IU the exact same way in both halves…whether in man or in zone. The only difference there was they hit a lot more jump shots and Indiana executed their block outs poorly. Is that Tubby “out-coaching Crean?”

    The extra turnovers in the second half did not come from any different defensive schemes in the half court. They guarded our ball screens the same, they guarded the drive the same. Only difference between halves in the half court defensively was energy from Minnesota.

    The only thing that Minnesota did differently defensively was they started to press. Which of course every coach in the nation would try when up against the clock. Indiana did not have the correct spacing against the presses that Minnesota utilized. That is the only portion of the game where I thought in game coaching was a factor in the lead disappearing.

  12. If there was poor coaching it was on TS and his staff for their game plan coming in and their resulting performance. They had no choice but to make adjustments for the 2nd 20. There were no adjustments Coach Crean could have made that would have helped JH, CW at the FT line or kept Oli from physically assaulting several 3 point shooters. Crean gets a B1G Star for the preperation for this game.

  13. I particularly liked the way Tubby instructed his players to go totally unconscious late in the game from three point land and hit everything they tossed up. Brilliant coaching move.

    Of course, CTC had the Hoosiers do the same thing in the first half.

    I don’t know why coaches don’t do that more often. You can really scores points fast when crazy threes start raining down.

  14. How am I giving Crean “no credit” for the first half? I thought it was among the best basketball I’ve seen this year….and he gets credit fr that.

    But there is a huge difference between starting well and finishing well. Part of that is mental toughness. And part of that is adjustments.

    It’s one thing to have a great game plan to start a game.

    A great coach will make adjustments based on what the other team throw outs. Teams go into hal time and say, “Ok, here is what they are doing and here is how they do it.”

    And we do the same stuff and get beat, or close to it, because we can’t counter what they did.

    You think we’re gonna get 20 point leads at half time each time so we have a cushion to work with? LOL!!

  15. I see everyone ducked my question about Davis.

    When he was coach, he was crucified after every loss….yet I never saw him “miss a free throw.”

    Even when he got us to the Title Game, many fans gave him ZERO credit and said, “He did it with Knight’s players” and “That team had so much talent he just had to roll the ball out there.”

    He was even called an “idiot” after wins.

    So…..again…..why the different standards for the black coach than for the white coach?

    If we lost by 50, you guys would STILL not blame ANY of it on Crean.

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