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April 4, 2005

After leading his team to a 28-6 record, University of Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith was rewarded with 2005 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award, edging Illinois' Bruce Weber by ten points.

“This might be Tubby’s finest coaching job,” says Rice head coach Willis Wilson who is one of 20 members on the Phelan Award committee. “He got so much out of his team, which was very young. His ability to motivate and get the most of out what he has to work with has always been a staple of Tubby Smith. This season was a prime example of that. Tubby really deserves this award.”

Smith received 10 first-place votes, while Weber received 8. Utah’s Ray Giacoletti and Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Bruce Pearl each received one first-place vote. Pacific’s Bob Thomason finished third overall in the voting, followed by Pearl, Boston College’s Al Skinner and Giacoletti.

The Wildcats began the season winning 10-of-11 and 19-of-21. And much to the surprise of many, UK won its first ten Southeastern Conference games. Kentucky’s come-from-behind win at Alabama (Feb. 26) clinched the school’s 43rd SEC title. It was Tubby’s fifth SEC title in eight seasons.

Over the past three seasons, Smith has led Kentucky to 51-4 mark against SEC opponents. The total ties the SEC record for most wins over conference foes in a three-year period. Kentucky has previously reached the 51-win mark over two spans (1995-97 and 1996-98).

“Despite all he has accomplished I still don’t believe that Tubby has received the credit he deserves,” says Joe Dwyer (pictured above) who is the editor-in-chief of CollegeInsider.com and a member of the Phelan award committee. “In my opinion, being the head basketball coach at Kentucky might be the single most challenging job in all of sports.”

Smith is the third recipient of the Jim Phelan Coach of the Year award, which was originally established in 1996 as the CollegeInsider.com National Coach of the Year award. In March 2003, the award was renamed to honor long-time Mount St. Mary’s coach Jim Phelan.

Mercer’s Mark Slonaker was the 2003 recipient and St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli took the honor in 2004.

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