UK Men's Basketball

Tubby's son G.G. follows unique path back to Lexington as Loyola assistant

However his career unfolds, Loyola assistant G.G. Smith will be known as an exceptional coach. The eldest son of former Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith defied convention by putting his wife's professional ambitions ahead of his own.

Usually, wives and children follow the coach from job to job. But Smith left a secure coaching position at Tennessee Tech to follow his wife, Lorie, as she pursued a career in medicine. That led to medicine-first stops in Honolulu; Savannah, Ga.; and Baltimore.

It was while in Baltimore five years ago that Smith was hired onto the staff at Loyola, which plays at Kentucky on Thursday.

"Everybody's been supportive," he said this week. "Everybody knows not a lot of people do those things. But that's just the way I am. I look back and say, I'm glad I did that because I wouldn't be where I am right now if I didn't."

Smith, who played at Georgia and later worked for his father as a graduate assistant at UK, was on the staff at Tennessee Tech when his wife got a chance to do her residency in Honolulu.

Smith downplayed the notion of making a sacrifice.

"I knew what I was doing," he said. "I knew I'd get out of coaching for a year. She wanted to be a doctor. I always knew with my situation, people I knew through my dad, I could always get back into the (coaching) business."

So while Lorie did her residency, Smith taught health at a Honolulu high school.

"It was really good because it gives you time to reflect on how much you miss the game," he said. "You reflect on how much you want to get into the business. And you obviously miss the basketball part of it, trying to win games, trying to win championships. That's one thing you really miss."

When Lorie took a position in Savannah, Smith got hired on the basketball staff at nearby Armstrong Atlantic State, a Division II school.

When Lorie moved to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Smith called Loyola Coach Jimmy Patsos. A few months later, Patsos hired Smith, who now serves as the program's top assistant, scout and strategist.

"He's like his father," said Patsos, a former assistant at Maryland. "He's polished. He's a gentleman. I'm a little more like Gary Williams. I need someone to balance me out. ...

"He's the X-and-O guy. I'm the recruiter."

Lorie now works as a researcher for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Hopefully, our next move is a move for me," he said.

Given the nature of coaching, there probably will be an opportunity to move.

The nomadic life dilutes the possible homecoming theme with the Loyola-Kentucky game. Of course, Tubby Smith was a UK assistant under Rick Pitino for two seasons, then later returned as head coach for 10 seasons.

"It's kind of home," Smith said of Lexington before adding, "It's not home-home."

As to where he considered home-home (Tulsa, where his father began his head coaching career? Athens, where he played? Lexington?), Smith said, "I don't have a home. We would just go wherever my dad was coaching at the time."

Smith decided on coaching as a career during his playing career at Georgia. His brothers are also coaches, Saul as one of his father's assistants at Minnesota, and Brian as an assistant at Windermere Prep in Orlando, Fla.

So much for the parents trying to dissuade the sons from entering coaching.

"It's just in the blood," G.G. Smith said. "Dad and Mom tried to tell us, 'Don't do it.' We did it anyway."

When asked why his parents tried to steer their sons away from coaching, G.G. Smith said, "My parents understand the process it takes to be successful. It's not easy. They probably didn't want us to go through it with our families."

G.G. and Lorie have a daughter, Jayna, who is 17 months old.

As for the nomadic life he experienced growing up, Smith said:

"It was great. I wouldn't trade it for anything. If my dad didn't make the sacrifices he made then, I wouldn't know the people I know now. It's hard on the family. It's hard on their wives and their kids. But if you want to be good, if you want to get to the elite level, you have to make those sacrifices."

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