Originally created 06/18/97

Felton joins Smith at Kentucky



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- George Felton doesn't mind working for his old assistant - not when it's Tubby Smith at national power Kentucky.

"It's like a friendship," said Felton, who hired Smith in 1986 when Felton was head coach at South Carolina. "I want to be here for a long while. I'm not using this as a steppingstone."

Felton, who also coached at Georgia Tech and St. John's and most recently at Oregon State, was named an assistant coach for the Wildcats on Tuesday.

"To me, this is better than being a head coach because of the mystique of the Kentucky program," said Felton, who coached South Carolina to an 87-62 record from 1987-1991.

"I'm sitting in an office looking at six national championship banners. When they say Kentucky basketball is a way of life, I believe it," he said.

Felton, who will be involved heavily in recruiting, said he left one friend to rejoin another.

When he became head coach at South Carolina, he hired Eddie Payne and Smith as assistants. Smith later left to become an assistant at Kentucky before moving on as a head coach at Tulsa and Georgia. He completed the cycle by returning to Kentucky to replace Rick Pitino. Meanwhile, Payne became head coach at East Carolina and then Oregon State, where he hired Felton as his top assistant.

"I am really grateful for the opportunity to work at Kentucky and really excited to be back with someone like Tubby, who I know not only professionally but from a standpoint of friendship," Felton said.

"Leaving Eddie Payne is the regrettable part because we've had a special relationship over the many years," he said.

The first time Felton had a chance to go to Kentucky as an assistant, he turned it down to remain with his close friend and mentor, Bobby Cremins, at Georgia Tech.

"I think it was 13 years ago when I came here and interviewed with (then Kentucky coach) Joe B. Hall," Felton said. "I decided to stay with Bobby at Georgia Tech, and Kentucky went to the Final Four the following year."

Smith also said that two assistants from his Georgia staff - Shawn Finney and Mike Sutton - would also join him at Kentucky.

"I think we've put together a staff that will be outstanding in all areas," Smith said.