GAMEDAY: A Father and Son Face-Off

It has been four years since Saul Smith was entering his final season as a Kentucky Wildcat, and while tonight's game against Tennessee Tech will be the first time Tubby's son will have sat in the visitors end since his departure, one thing has been made clear. <br><br> Although the hard nosed Kentucky coach might not say it - Dad's still proud.

"I've done a lot over the years," Coach Tubby Smith said yesterday at his press conference, having coached against my sons in the past in some form or fashion either as players or as coaches.

"It won't be any different than anyone else down there. I'll be proud because Mike Sutton has given him an opportunity. He's working with someone I really care a lot about in Mike Sutton. Mike has been like a brother to me over the years. He couldn't be in better hands and he couldn't learn from a better coach and a better person."

Saul Smith finished his Kentucky career with 110 victories, two SEC Tournament titles and one NCAA ring. He scored 730 points and had 364 assists, ninth in school history.

"He is a very intelligent kid," Tubby explained. "He knew the plays inside and out growing up in the household and being around competitive sports all his life. He can also communicate. He's a great communicator and he doesn't mind vocally expressing his opinion.

Smith played four years at Kentucky and started at point guard for the Wildcats in each of his final two seasons. While helping the Wildcats claim the 1998 NCAA title, he also climbed to 11th in career steals (152).

"He also has a great work ethic," Tubby continued. "In everything he's ever attempted, he has finished it. Those are characteristics that will help anyone."

And now its on to coaching, where after just three short seasons on the bench, the former Kentucky star has already been given his first chance.

"I've known from a very young age that I've wanted to coach," said Smith, the middle son of three boys to Donna and Tubby. "Even back in basketball camps, I used to try to coach my friends.

"I'm especially excited to be at Tennessee Tech," Smith added. "The Tech coaching staff – coach Frank Harrell and coach Kevin Bray -- recruited me out of high school, and I had my choices narrowed to Tech and the University of Georgia."

He didn't last long with Georgia on his list, soon swapping schools with his father - eventually landing at Kentucky.

"His familiarity with our program will help," Sutton said. "Frank and Kevin and the people in the basketball program years ago did a good job of exposing him to the university when he was a high school recruit. It came down to two schools and a decision whether he was going to play at Tennessee Tech or play for his father."

Smith spent last year on the staff at Kentucky while completing his bachelor's degree in economics. At UK, he was involved with several aspects of the Wildcat program last season working primarily with the guards, including Gerald Fitch and Cliff Hawkins.

"He had to figure (coaching) out on his own," the elder Smith said. "He had been out of school for two or three years with the NBDL. He gave that a shot and finished what he had to finish here academically and made a final decision with what he wanted his career to go."

And now he faces a new task - the 8th ranked Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena.

"It's going to be very awkward going into Rupp and not cheering for the Big Blue," said Smith. "I always loved playing in front of the greatest fans in the country, and now my job is to help beat them on Tuesday night."

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