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With Tubby, Kentucky gets total package

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Sept. 30
On a quiet fall day, I recently had a surprise down here in Sarasota, Florida. My doorbell rang and there was someone outside shouting, "Hey baby, I'm here to take care of your pool!"

Tubby Smith
Coach Tubby Smith and Kentucky get one of the No. 1 seeds in my early field of 65.
I looked up and it was none other than Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith! He came over, along with a couple of my buddies, Jerry Healy from Lexington, Kentucky, John Persio from Sarasota and Dick Christian, also from Florida. The three amigos (as I call them) took Tubby to lunch while he was visiting the IMG academy, where several high-school prospects are attending a local high school on the same property.

As usual, Tubby Smith is working, working, working -- though this time he took a short break. It was great to have him visit. You'd better believe I got the camera out and took pictures with him posing alongside my grandchildren, Connor and Jake.

Talk about a classy guy! He is the total package: a family man, leader and winner. The fans at Kentucky are fortunate to have him. He did a great job last season, going unbeaten in the SEC while winning the league tournament championship.

But I can hear critics screaming, what about the Marquette game in the NCAA Tournament? The Golden Eagles, behind Dwyane Wade, were brilliant in that game. It was a phenomenal year for the Wildcats, even though they fell short of the Final Four.

Fans in Lexington expect big things again. But Kentucky has a tough schedule this season, as usual. Nonleague contests include games at UCLA, Indiana and Michigan State (at Ford Field before what is expected to be the largest crowd ever to see a college-basketball game).

Plus, Kentucky has home tests vs. Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame. That isn't Cupcake City, baby!

When Tubby and I met, we shared ideas about scheduling philosophy, which was a recent topic of one of my online columns. Some guys play the creme de la creme, others play Hostess specials. Kentucky isn't afraid to leave Lexington for challenges.

This should be another outstanding Wildcats squad. After spending a nice afternoon talking with Tubby, I can say it again: Kentucky fans are fortunate to have him gracing the sidelines in Bluegrass Country.

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