Originally created 11/07/97

Father, son duo presented a quandry



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- G.G. Smith heard it all the time. As an athlete playing for his dad, he came to expect the taunts and the grief.

"Oh, I've probably experienced them all, from things like `Get daddy's boy out of there,' to stuff like, `He's only playing because his dad's the coach,"' said Smith, a junior guard at Georgia. "Even my own teammates would give me a hard time from time to time, but mostly they were just kidding. It's fun not being a coach's son. It feels good just to be another player."

Actually, Smith is still a coach's son, only his dad, Tubby Smith, left the Bulldogs for Kentucky. Last spring, Smith took the Kentucky job after two successful seasons at Georgia, where his oldest son became an integral part of a team that has reached the past two NCAA Tournaments.

After a short search, Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley named assistant Ron Jirsa as the Bulldogs' new coach. Jirsa and Smith have known each other since both were assistants at Virginia Commonwealth 13 years ago.

So when Smith left, G.G. immediately faced a quandary. Should he stay at Georgia, where he was coming off a season where he started at point guard, or should he follow his dad to Kentucky?

"I really thought he was gone," teammate Ray Harrison said.

However, when Jirsa was hired, Georgia was on G.G.'s mind.

"It was very tough for me," G.G. said. "I just went with my gut feeling, and that told me to stay. I've known coach Jirsa almost as long as I've known my dad, since I was about 6 years old, so I decided to stay."

Joked Tubby, "Some of the other players obviously got to G.G. I believe Ron got to him. I didn't try to influence him one way or the other. I just believe he had grown with the guys on the team and established himself in Athens."

Plus, junior point guard Wayne Turner is back at Kentucky, along with Tubby's middle son, Saul, a freshman who played at Athens Clarke Central last year.

"I left it all up to G.G.," Tubby said. "When kids get that age, it's hard to tell them what to do anyway. You can't tell them what to do. You just have to let them make up their own minds."

Still, it's the first time the Smith family has been apart, and it certainly came sooner than Tubby expected. He had intended on staying in Athens for a few more years, but couldn't pass up a dream job like Kentucky.

Donna Smith has become the ambassador, a link to Tubby's past at Georgia and his future at Kentucky. She moved with her husband to Lexington, Ky., but plans on attending as many Georgia games as possible, including the opener against North Carolina State on Tuesday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. It is the first collegiate basketball game of the season.

As for those Kentucky-Georgia games (Jan. 6 and Feb. 22), G.G. insisted his mom will be wearing red and black.

"I'm her baby. She'll always be on my side," he said.

"No. She'll be wearing red and blue," Tubby said. "She'll be wearing plaid. She will not be wearing red and black, unless she's bought a new outfit that I'm not aware of."