Pressure goes with the territory   

Updated: March 23, 2007, 3:24 PM ET

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It wasn't just Kentucky fans who got their wish when Tubby Smith surprisingly bolted to Minnesota.

Tubby got his wish, too.

Tubby and Kentucky fans finally agreed on something. Many of the Wildcats faithful wanted him gone, and he seemed to be just as eager to leave.

Truth is, Tubby folded beneath the pressure to win, and all his tough talk about how he was unaffected by the high expectations in Lexington was just good, old-fashioned bull.

Tubby felt underappreciated, even though nothing says "I love you" quite like his $2.5 million annual salary. At his new university, he won't have to worry about that. He'll have a 24-hour ego stroke.

No offense to the mighty Gophers, but if I promised you 20 wins for the next five years and a few trips to the NCAA Tournament, you'd accept that quicker than Dick Enberg can say, "Oh, my." At Kentucky, that just doesn't cut it. Tubby knew that when he got there. But the truly great coaches feed off that pressure. They don't flee from it.

So if we routinely kill A-Rod for his whining and constant need for adulation, why does Tubby get a free pass? Like A-Rod, Tubby is among the highest-paid in his profession. Like A-Rod, he was in a city that only respects titles. If A-Rod gains membership into the Chump Hall of Fame for not making it in New York, what does it say about Tubby that he bailed out on one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country?

This isn't to say that Tubby always was treated fairly. The Wildcats made it to the Elite Eight three times and won the national title in 1998, and many fans never gave Tubby the credit he deserved. But for $2.5 mil a year, putting up with malcontents is just one of your job duties.

Tubby wasn't the only coach calling for a moving van. Steve Alford left Iowa after eight seasons of sub-.500 ball for more tolerant New Mexico. Alford just wanted to take his $925,000 salary to a place where his 61-67 Big Ten record would be more appreciated.

Jemele Hill, a Page 2 columnist and writer for ESPN The Magazine, can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.


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