TAYLOR: UK basketball a big deal

What a week it was. While covering a remarkable run by the George Rogers Clark in the boys' Sweet Sixteen state tournament, former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith resigned to take a similar post at the University of Kentucky. A little more than 24 hours later, junior Randolph Morris signed a two-year contract with the New York Knicks.

Both stories broke before and while the Cards were making their first appearance in the state tournament in 17 years.

The question suddenly became whether Smith would be returning to who will be the team's next coach.

While keeping one eye on Clark and the other on the Wildcats, my phone started ringing off the hook as soon as news of Smith's resignation began circulating.

My laptop became a hot commodity during Clark's first-round win over Christian County in the state tourney. Everyone wanted to know what was going on. One minute, trainer Bill Keightley is in the building and the next thing, he's headed out the door.

In the grand scheme of things, to be honest, I wasn't one of the people caught off-guard by Smith's decision to leave Kentucky, but the timing of it all was a somewhat of a shock. As early as two weeks ago, I had a gut-feeling that something was going to happen at UK in a matter of two weeks. Just felt it.

At that point, the wheels in my brain started turning as to who would come to UK if Smith departed. The first name to pop up was Florida coach Billy Donovan. The second? Texas A&M coach Billy Gillespie. Rick Pitino is third on this list, but what does that matter?

During the last days of the Smith regime, most of the letters we received at the office stated that Smith wasn't the right man for the job. Only one letter supported Smith, which we published. Some wanted change, others didn't.

I haven't formed an official opinion on the matter, but what has transpired could be the best thing for both parties. Smith indicated during his introduction as coach at Minnesota that he needed a new challenge and added that it was the main reason for his departure. Kentucky now has the challenge of finding a new coach.

During the whole process, one thing has stuck out in my mind. As I was growing up, I remember my dad pondering whether or not he should step down as a pastor of a church. His gut instinct at the time was to leave, but stayed past his time. His departure from that church ended up hurting my dad in the long run.

It's my personal belief that Smith may have had those same instincts and followed them, leaving when he felt like it was time to move one.

The same thing happens when coaches retire. I remember former Eastern Kentucky football coach Roy Kidd saying it was time when he officially retired. Only an individual in his own mind knows when it's time to go and wait a little longer.

The next coach will need to understand the bar is high at Kentucky and understandably so. The Wildcats are one of the elite programs in the nation when it comes to college basketball. Although some don't like the idea that UK basketball holds such a high esteem in the Bluegrass, it's a tie that binds Kentuckians all together. It has been for centuries and will continue to be the main dominator in this state.

Kentucky basketball is important in these parts and it's a big deal. Big enough that nearly everyone from those who visit the barber shop to those who are in the nursing home pay attention to what goes on at Rupp Arena and the new practice facility.

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