Of all the major-college basketball coaches I've covered, Tubby Smith stood out. In a profession filled with cut-throats and control freaks, he seemed uncommonly decent.
Which is why I found his comments to ESPN.com on the controversy over this spring's rash of college basketball transfers disappointing.
It's been lost a bit locally because of the turmoil surrounding the Kentucky-Indiana and UK-North Carolina scheduling impasses, but the dominant issue in college hoops since the 2012 NCAA Tournament ended has been players wanting to transfer and coaches/schools fighting to restrict their right to do so.
In other words, same as it ever was.
I first began writing a Sunday column at the Herald-Leader in 1999 and became a full-time columnist in 2001. In 1999, Morehead State was refusing to release its then-star player, Erik Brown, to transfer even though MSU's then-coach, Kyle Macy, had transferred himself as a player from Purdue to Kentucky.
Two years later, then-UK athletics director Larry Ivy initially denied Wildcats big man Marvin Stone a release to transfer to Louisville to play for Rick Pitino because UK had a "policy" against allowing athletes to transfer to other SEC schools or rivals it regularly played.
After a media outcry — and a threat of lawsuits on behalf of attorneys representing both Brown's family and Stone's — each eventually got their release and transferred.
At the time, it was obvious that the transfer rules that govern college basketball needed to be liberalized to give more rights to the players.
Yet more than a decade later, it's distressing that players like Jarrod Uthoff (leaving Wisconsin) and Jordan Clarkson (departing Tulsa) had to fight the exact same battle this spring for their freedom.
One of the most glaring hypocrisies in the model of major college sports is that the adults who run the system have one standard for themselves when it comes to career mobility yet attempt to hold the college-aged players to a far stricter code.
No matter how many years coaches (or administrators) have remaining on a contract, they move with impunity to other jobs whenever they choose (though they sometimes are required to pay a contract buyout to do so).
Yet when it comes to players seeking to switch schools, too many coaches (take a bow, Bo Ryan) still try to exercise unfair restraints on where a transfer can go and some schools refuse to even grant players their releases at all.
What's worse, many coaches still seem unable to see the ethical issues that arise from having different standards for the players than the ones they have for themselves.
Which brings us to Tubby.
"They're kids. They're there to get an education," Minnesota's Smith told ESPN.com about college hoops players. "We're here to make a living. We clothe (the players), we feed them, we house them, we educate them. It's apples and oranges."
This from a coach who had four years left on his Kentucky contract when he took the Minnesota job and four seasons remaining on his Georgia contract when he came to UK.
Many coaches have little compunction about clearing the roster of players they feel are not talented enough to win games for them, especially following coaching changes. It's what Larry Brown has done since being hired at SMU, including "waiving" incumbent starting point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas. It's what John Calipari did with the likes of Kevin Galloway, A.J. Stewart and Co. when Cal came to UK.
So it's OK for coaches to cut loose players following a coaching change but schools such as Florida International would not release players (like big man Dominique Ferguson, a one-time UK commitment) who wanted to transfer in the aftermath of the recent firing of FIU head man Isiah Thomas.
As Al Gore might say, it's wrong, it's just wrong.
There's a case to be made that the kids in college sports should actually have easier access to school switching than the coaches. A player only gets one chance, four seasons, in an entire lifetime to play college hoops. A coach's career window potentially runs for his entire working life.
Coaches are understandably frustrated with the mass exodus of transfers that occurs each spring. According to NCAA figures, more than 400 men's college hoops players, on average, transfer schools after each season. That is between 10 and 11 percent of the entire population of Division I men's college basketball players switching schools annually.
Given the murky netherworld of street agents, runners, unaccountable-to-responsible-authority AAU types and mysterious "sports marketers" that often congregate around high-level young basketball players, it's easy to understand why college coaches see tampering behind every request to transfer.
But absent actual proof that someone affiliated with another school is trying to swipe players, the rules should be changed to promise all players at least one unconditional release per a career.
Well, with one condition.
Currently, even if a player gets a full release from their old school, they have to sit out a season of competition before they are eligible to play at a new school. Since the college sports adults switch jobs without such a penalty, the intellectually consistent position would be to say players should be able to transfer at any time, too.
Yet I'm OK with the current one-year waiting period in which players who switch schools can be on scholarship and practice but not play in games. Without that, you'd have chaos, players switching schools mid-season or guys switching schools every single season.
Beyond that, though, no restrictions on player transfers.
If a player wants to leave a school, they should be able to go wherever they want.
To another school in the same conference?
To their old school's archrival?
Quicker than you can say "Marvin Stone."
What was clear way back in 1999 should be even clearer now: When it comes to college sports mobility, what's good for the coaches should be good for the players.