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Barnhart hints that Smith's job isn't in jeopardy

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Tubby Smith has good reason to believe
Kentucky wants him to return next season.

"Tubby's our basketball coach," athletic director Mitch
Barnhart told The Associated Press on Monday. "He's done a great
job of representing the platform of Kentucky basketball. We'll
always look to make adjustments to the things we've got to do to
get better. Tubby and I will do that collectively."

Amid weeks of speculation that Smith was on his way out,
Barnhart stopped short of saying the coach would remain in charge
of the Wildcats. The AD acknowledged, however, that fans had
misinterpreted a statement by him as meaning a coaching change was
near.

"They were reading way too much into that," Barnhart said,
referring to the statement that urged fans to wait until the
postseason before making judgments on the state of the team.

The Wildcats (21-11) are a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament for
the second straight year. Kentucky plays Villanova in the first
round on Friday.

Kentucky is the winningest team in college basketball team
history and boasts seven national championships -- the latest in
1998 in Smith's first year on the job. The team hasn't been back to
the Final Four since and has amassed double-digit losses two
straight years and five times under Smith. Some fans critical of
Smith have nicknamed him "Ten-loss Tubby."

Barnhart said he and Smith would sit down after the season to
discuss changes. He declined to say whether any assistants might be
replaced.

"His winning percentage is .700-plus," Barnhart said. "Since
I've been here, we've won a couple conference championships, been
to two Elite Eights, we've been the number one seed twice. We've
had a couple years here that have been a little un-Kentuckylike,
but I don't think that's a reason to panic or put ourselves in a
position where we're not making objective calls in terms of the
things we need to do to be better."

Barnhart said that high school recruits looking at Kentucky
should have no reason to believe Smith won't be their coach.
Recruiting stability was part of the reason he extended football
coach Rich Brooks' contract after last season, when the Wildcats
won the Music City Bowl.

Even after Barnhart released his statement last month when the
Wildcats were in the midst of losing four out of five games, Smith
said he felt he had the administration's support.

"I'm not going to defend my record or anything else," Smith
said at the time. "But I guess Mitch felt like he needed to make a
comment, from what I understand. I'm sure he gets calls just like
everybody else."

Barnhart explained Monday he released the statement as an answer
to media requests and didn't intend to suggest Smith's job was in
danger if the Wildcats didn't finish strong.

"I just globally wanted people to understand, look, we're
paying attention," Barnhart said. "We'll make the adjustments at
the end of the year we need to make and we'll get on with it. By
not saying something, everybody, I think, would have thought we
didn't care or we weren't paying attention to the things that were
going on in our program."

Barnhart said he understands fan criticism, but is disturbed it
often gets personal.

"What bothers me most is people can be very disrespectful to
people as human beings," he said. "I feel bad for coaches when
they're not treated as human beings. ... I hope that Tubby knows
there's a large number of people out there that love him, that
think highly of him and his family -- the way they have represented
Kentucky."