A Family Affair
Dec. 16, 2004
By Matt Segal,
During his childhood, Brian Smith had a difficult time understanding why his family was always on the move. The stops included Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Georgia before his family returned to the Bluegrass State.
Then, at the age of seven, it all started coming together. Smith began to comprehend why his family was forced to re-locate every three to four years.
"In 1991, when we arrived in Tulsa, Okla., I asked my mother, `why are we always moving?'" Smith recalls. "She sat me down and explained the whole situation. I think I was finally at the age where I could make sense of everything that was going on."
The reason? His father. The name? Orlando "Tubby" Smith and one that all college basketball fans know.
The father, who is in the midst of his eighth season at the helm of the Kentucky men's basketball program, has quickly become one of the most successful and most respected coaches in the college game. His record as a Division-I head coach (315-114) speaks for itself and his winning percentage (.734) ranks sixth -- behind Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Lute Olsen and Bob Huggins -- among active coaches.
The oldest brother, G.G., was a four-year guard at Georgia (1996-99), where he earned All-Southeastern Conference accolades in 1998. He is currently an assistant coach at Armstrong Atlantic State, a Division-II school in Savannah, Ga.
The middle brother, Saul, was a four-year guard at Kentucky (1998-2001), where he helped the Wildcats to three straight SEC championships (1999, 2000 and 2001). Saul was also a reserve on the 1998 squad, which captured the seventh NCAA title in UK history. He is now an assistant coach at Tennessee Tech, a Division-I school in Cookeville, Tenn.
And then, there's Brian. The youngest son and a 5-foot-11, 170-pound freshman on the 2004-05 Ole Miss basketball team.
Brian comes to the Rebel program after a very successful prep career at Lexington (Ky.) Catholic High School and one season at Fork Union Academy (Va.). Brian will be the first of the three sons not to play college basketball for his father as Tubby was the head coach at Georgia from 1995-97 before taking over at Kentucky in 1998.
"There was a lot of pressure on the whole family when G.G. and Saul played for our father," Brian says. "That's not something I wanted to put my mother through again. She and I talked a lot about my college decision and we felt like it was in my best interest to go somewhere other than Kentucky.
"Ole Miss was a great fit for me. Coach (Rod) Barnes is a genuine man who truly cares about his players. I look at him as a second father. He is very up front and honest with his players. I think all of the guys on this team really respect him for that. This team has established great chemistry and the incoming class has really bonded. We are all looking forward to the season ahead."
As a youngster, Brian was a typical gym rat. He would always hang out at his dad's college basketball practices. He enjoyed getting to know the players and the atmosphere on gameday.
"My father and both brothers really helped me get to this level," Brian says. "I know I'm a better person and better basketball player today because of everything they've taught me in the past. G.G, Saul and I spent many nights in a gym when we were growing up. We watched a lot of tape with dad and really began to study the game at an early age." Unlike most 18-year-old basketball players in the 21st century, the youngest Smith loves to play defense.
"I love the challenge of shutting down an opponent and think I do a pretty good job of putting pressure on the ball," he admits. "Defense is something that my father has always emphasized. His teams at Kentucky are successful because they play great defense. It's not the most glamorous aspect of the game, but a necessary evil for success.
Hopefully, great defense is something I can bring to the table here." The youngest Smith also realizes that he must continue to improve in all areas to become an impact player in one of the nation's toughest leagues.
"I think my mid-range game is pretty strong, but know that I need to keep working on it," he mentions. "I also plan to strengthen my decision-making process while I'm on the court. The point guard is like a quarterback on the floor. It's our job to get everyone on the same page."
Brian responds with a great deal of confidence when asked if, "there's any extra pressure being the fourth Division-I basketball player from his immediate family?"
"A lot of people in the basketball world expect me to live up to the reputation of my father and brothers because they have all been winners," he says. "That pressure is something I've learned to cope with over the years. From this day forward, my number one goal is to become the best Brian Smith I can possibly be. With the right attitude and dedication, I feel like I'll be able to make my own mark in the Southeastern Conference."
That "winning mentality," which has become part of the Smith family, is something Brian hopes to bring to this year's team as the Rebels look to return to their winning ways.
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