Gary Porter, father of Kentucky Wildcats' point guard Michael Porter, said Thursday evening that the players were shocked at the news that Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith may be leaving the team for Minnesota.
"Michael was shocked," said Porter, himself a coach for Modesto Christian High School in California, state 4A runner's up this season. "Michael called me earlier and said, ‘Dad, guess what? I think coach Smith is leaving.'"
Gary Porter said that he understood that coach Smith had a tough season and had been under pressure, but thought the coach would be back again next season, "I believed there would be changes," Porter said, "but I thought maybe there would be changes in some of the assistants. I thought Tubby would be back next year. It was my impression from talking to Michael that all the players expected Tubby back."
"Michael said the meeting was an emotional one," Porter continued. "There is no doubt that Tubby had the respect of the players. I tried to call Tubby when I heard the news but I didn't reach him."
Porter indicated that Michael had told him that Tubby would be calling the players' parents soon. Gary was looking forward to the call, "I really want to wish Tubby the best of luck in this new job. Tubby is a great coach and a real personable human being. Replacing him will not be easy."
Porter knew full well that Smith was under fire this year. He believed some of the pressure was certainly felt by the players, "I know Michael felt some of the frustration. He wanted to play more. I told him to keep working hard in practice and that the coach would eventually notice him. I think the entire team is understandably sad."
Porter also indicated that as far as he knew, not only did the players not see the coaching change coming, that they have no idea who the new coach will be. "I think it's understandable that the players will be a little concerned about who is coming in. They don't know if this will be a running coach, or a half court coach. They just don't know. They're shell-shocked.
Porter indicated that while the players are a little stunned, that he suspects that there is certainly going to be some anticipation and excitement around a new coach mixed in with some apprehension. "This is Kentucky. It's a great program and they are going to get a great coach. I don't know who they will bring in but it would be my personal hope that they bring in a coach that likes to run."
Porter said from his experience in dealing with high school athletes that the players today really like a running game, "These kids of today are great athletes and they really like to get up and down the floor. My personal preference would be for Kentucky to find a great coach who really likes to get up and down the floor."
The California coach also said that he has already seen some fans express concerns about transfers, which he believes is really premature, "I think the players are going to take some time to let it all sink in and watch the process of bringing in a new coach unfold. Then, when whoever is hired is brought in, I think that coach will come in and sit down and really get to know the players and do his best to make them feel comfortable. Kentucky is going to bring in a solid coach, I know. I certainly would not anticipate anyone leaving that wasn't already going to leave."
And what does that mean?
"(Randolph) Morris," Porter responded. "I don't know if he was going to leave or not but I really don't see this as making a big difference. If he was headed to the NBA, he will likely still head to the NBA. If he was leaning to staying he will likely still stay."
Asked about Michael's development this year, "I am not going to lie. I am a player's dad. I thought Michael should have played more. I think he showed a lot of promise in the early season. I think if he had played more in the middle and end of the season he would be a lot further ahead than he is now."
Porter said, that while Michael was at times frustrated, he remains very confident in his abilities to help this team, "Michael tells me all the time, ‘Dad, I know I can really help this team. I think I can be the best shooter in the team.' And I believe him. From that standpoint, when a new coach gets here, there will be some positives. Michael and (Perry) Stevenson may be more opportunites with a new coach."
So does Porter have any of his own names in mind?
"I don't think they will ask me," Porter laughs, "but whoever it is --- he needs to have a thick skin."
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