It's A Sonny Day In Auburn

In addition to pulling out a victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, Auburn honored former Tiger coach Sonny Smith.

Auburn, Ala.--A steady stream of fans made a point after Auburn's exciting 57-54 basketball victory over the Georgia Bulldogs to find Sonny Smith and say hello or get an autograph from one of the most loved coaches in Auburn University history.

With a well deserved reputation as one of the all-time good guys in Southeastern Conference coaching circles, Smith was honored with his own day on Saturday with a ceremony at halftime in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. He coached Auburn teams in that arena from 1978-1979 through the 1988-89 season.

He was the first Auburn men's basketball coach to guide an AU team into the Sweet 16 and the only men's coach to lead the Tigers to the Elite Eight. Auburn just missed advancing to the Final Four in 1985, losing a tight game in Houston, Tex., to eventual national champion Louisville.

Sonny Smith speaks to the crowd on Saturday.

"Of all the places I coached, this was always my favorite," Smith tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I didn't leave because I had to and I didn't leave here because I wanted to, either. I am more an Auburn type of guy than any other place I coached. I love it."

Smith retired from coaching after his wife Jan suffered a serious illness. However, after her health improved he was coaxed out of retired by Virginia Commonwealth and finished his coaching career there in 1998.

"I don't come back that many times because you can't get in the way of the guy who is coaching here no," Smith says. "It has been great that Auburn did this. The letterman's club guys tried to get me to do it last year, but I had another obligation. I was very happy they asked me to be here this year."

Smith received this framed artwork of memories from his days at AU.

Even though he has finished coaching, Smith is not exactly retired. He has a busy schedule with a radio talk show in Birmingham on WJOX with former Tide coach Wimp Sanderson in the mornings. In the evenings he is does expert commentary on televised college basketball games across the southeast.

Sanderson, his long-time coaching rival, was one of the speakers who introduced Smith. The former Tide coach got a nice round of applause from the crowd of 8,777. He also got a big laugh when he thanked the Auburn fans for not greeting him with the chant of "Sit Down Wimp, Sit Down Wimp!" that was a favorite when he brought his Bama teams to Auburn.

Former Smith center Jeff Moore did a live introduction and Charles Barkley, Smith's most famous player, sent a taped message that was played on the coliseum's big screen on the scoreboard. Barkley had television duties of his own to attend to, but said, "I love you and I wish I could have been there."

Smith's day had a happy ending for Tiger fans as Auburn led almost the entire game and held off a late charge for a much-needed victory over Georgia.


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