Hall understands pressure Smith feels

Former UK coach Joe Hall knows first hand what the pressure is like for current UK coach Tubby Smith. Hall's tenure at Kentucky faced an early 13-13 season, but bounced back with two Final Four appearances and a National Title in the following four seasons.

Joe Hall remembers the disappointment he felt any time his University of Kentucky basketball team did not meet his expectations. That's why he knows current UK coach Tubby Smith could not have been happy losing 13 games last season. However, he also understands the daily pressure Smith faces as he tries to get Kentucky back to a higher level of play next year.

"I loved coaching and what I did, but coaching at Kentucky took so much out of me. There's so much interest. You live in a tunnel of activity that is only about work. There's so much pressure. I yearned for a normal life and wanted to see how the other half lived when I retired," Hall said. "I probably got out too soon, but coaching is a year-round job. There's the pressure of recruiting and always promoting the program.

"At Kentucky, you are in a relatively small community, but it is a large enough community where there are a lot of needs for the coach to perform and people pulling at you all the time. You have to comply with those requests. Of course, a lot of coaches would like to be in that situation where basketball meant so much. But it can wear you down. It's a two-edged sword, but I never mind the community part. It was just part of the job, but I know there are even more demands on Tubby's time now than there were on mine."

Hall laughs at the notion that not winning the Southeastern Conference title or losing 13 games would give Smith extra motivation for this season. "You work to your maximum all the time. The pressure of the job sees to that. You just have to have the confidence to survive a bad year because if you stay in coaching, it happens to everyone," Hall said.

Hall remembers going 13-13 his second year. "Thank goodness coach Rupp had a year like that in 1966-67 after the Runts did so well the year before. Seeing coach Rupp have a year like that takes the pressure off you a little bit," Hall said. "I knew I could recruit and that UK was an attractive program. All I had to do was keep my confidence up."

Kentucky responded with a Final Four appearance the next year, won the NIT in 1976, reached the Elite Eight in 1997 and then won the national title in 1978.

Still, Hall knows UK fans were upset with his 13-13 year after the Cats had won the SEC and reached the Elite Eight a year earlier. However, he recalls the problems his 1973-74 team had after losing center Jim Andrews to graduation. He moved Bob Guyette from power forward to center, shifted big guard Jimmy Dan Conner to forward along with Kevin Grevey, and played Ronnie Lyons at guard with Mike Flynn. "We went from a big team to a small team. Then the next year we got (Rick) Robey and (Mike) Phillips in and went back to a real big team," Hall said. "I was just trapped by my own recruiting. When you find yourself without the complete package, you just suffer through it."

Hall thinks sophomore Jared Carter could be the key to UK's success next season. If the 7-foot center can be effective inside scoring and rebounding, that might allow Smith to shift center Randolph Morris to power forward and give the Cats a bigger, stronger team.

"If he can get Carter playing well, that could be his best bet," Hall said. "He has the guards to have a good team. He has players that should be able to play defense like he wants. But you just never know about chemistry and team unity. Basically, you are just fortunate when it all comes together because it is not an easy process for any coach at any school."

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