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Russ Smith: “If my career had to end, I’m okay with it ending to Kentucky”


INDIANAPOLIS — He had just played his final game of a legendary career at Louisville and missed a potential shot that could have forced overtime, but Louisville senior Russ Smith was as gracious in defeat as any All-American could be here Friday.

“I don’t hold grudges. I don’t hate anybody,” said Smith after Louisville’s 74-69 loss to Kentucky when the Cardinals blew a seven-point lead in the final 4 1/2 minutes. “I’m a positive person. At the end of they day, this was a loss. I just empathize with the fans. I wish I could’ve given them the win. I’m so sorry. But for me, we lost to a great team. And I have great respect for them.”

Several reports indicated that Smith went to the UK locker room to congratulate the Cats, a classy move after his 23-point, three-assist performance.

“I’m just glad that I have a lot of respect around the state and people respect my craft and my body of work. I love my teammates. I’m glad that I’ve gotten to meet all the people I’ve met. And I’m glad I have coach (Rick) Pitino in my life. He’s helped shape me into a man. He’s made me the player I am,” Smith said.

“I was looked at as kind of a clown basketball player. Everyone thought I was a joke. And he transformed me into an All-American basketball player. Without him in my life, I’d be upset right now, off crying, or yelling or making excuses. But I’m here in front of you, manning up. I take this loss like a man and I’ll go out like a man.”

He praised Kentucky.

“Those are a great group of guys. They show great love. You respect someone when you see a competitor out there on the court,” Smith said. “From each class, from my sophomore year on, Kentucky’s guys have shown me the same love. And these are new waves of classes, not the same people. So I’ve gotten great respect from them, potential NBA guys, and that’s great.

“The (Harrison) twins are fantastic and they’re going to keep getting better. All those guys. (James) Young, (Julius) Randle. Dakari (Johnson), I’ve known him since he was little and I’m excited for what he’s becoming, and you have to love that.

“If my career had to end, I’m okay with it ending to Kentucky. Those boys play hard. They deserve everything that’s coming to them. I respect everything about their program and their coaching staff. For me, I just want people to remember me as a great competitor, a great sportsman, someone who respects the game a lot, and whatever it is, I just want it to be a positive legacy.”

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  1. Mike

    Didn’t follow the personal side of Russ over the years, but he gives you the feeling that he can go inside and score at will whenever he wants to. If he did go to our locker room what a classy, classy act, and you can tell from above interview a quality guy with very good character. Almost found myself feeling sorry that he lost…..almost.

  2. Bryan M.

    First off, thank you Larry for the awesome coverage you keep giving us. Tweets throughout the game, even responding to tweets when I would have assumed you’d be too busy after the game… you don’t get enough praise for what you provide the fans of UK.
    Now I just read this article after reading the one about how Pitino doesn’t “like losing to Kentucky”, and I’ve got to wonder about Russ Smith’s comments that Pitino shaped him into the man he is today. How to put this… Russ Smith seems like a great person, who appreciates what he has, is proud of himself, and happy for others as well. Pitino seems disappointed, begrudging others what they have and overall appears to be trying to contain his inner bitterness. I guess what I’m getting at is, the season just ended Mr. Pitino. Take some time to enjoy with your team what they’ve accomplished, and be happy for what you’ve got while still happy for your state’s success. Be more like Russ Smith. Maybe now isn’t the best time to point out why you think your team lost, and instead tell them they are successful men who should be proud of themselves. Be more like Russ Smith. As I’ve heard many other coaches and players do, be happy for the team that played you greatly, point out how well they played to elevate the view of how well your own team played, instead of pointing out where your team failed (no defense in the second half) to try to dimish how well your opponent played. Be more like Russ Smith.

    1. Kokamo Joe

      Would it not be great if both the fan bases of UL and UK had that level of class and humility? Many do.

      1. Larry Pup

        Hey Kokamo, where you been?!!!!! Elite 8 huh, your measure of a successful season I think you posted. May I also add, the SEC is well represented too, looks like to me, and all from that weak conference you run down all the time. By the way, UT got robbed or there would have been three SEC teams. Can you explain all that to us pilgrims why so many weak teams from the SEC are still in the hunt?

        1. Kokamo Joe

          Larry: Before the season began I wrote that this talented team needed to make at least the great 8 in order for the season to be successful. They have done that. Regardless of the 10 loses, success can be determined by how far a team goes in the big dance.

          I say if you have an advantage, be proud of it and rejoice. I am delighted that we play basketball in the football rich SEC. We are the all time leaders in team wins partly because of the SEC. We have 8 national championships and are in the hunt for a 9th. The entire league has 3. We have won more SEC championships than the entire league combined. No team, in any conference, has the outstanding dominance over the rest of the league than UK. I write this again…..this conference is judged by it’s top two or three teams, but by the entire league.

          Some may feel that by looking at the lack of strength of this conference, year after year, and being realistic somehow lessens the accomplishments of the UK program. I do not. Like the little boy who has the only candy bar in his second grade class, I say enjoy it and be glad that you have it.

          1. Larry Pup

            Kokamo, do Duke and UNC dominate in basketball in the ACC just about every year? How many league championships do they have compared with the rest of the ACC teams? This year of course being an exception.

            No, some of us don’t think like you that the SEC in basketball is a bunch of candies. I know the coaches and players don’t. What you say does diminish UK’s accomplishments because it implies they don’t have any competition in this league and championships are easily come by. Just read your own comments. Like I said, and you didn’t respond, why is the SEC that was represented by three different teams in the sweet 16, with 2 advancing to the elite 8, still in the hunt if the SEC is so weak top to bottom.

    2. Kokamo Joe

      It is hard to get in the brain of another person. I watched the Pitino comments. Surely he was disappointed. But he seemed gracious to me. I saw no “begrudging others for what they have and trying to control his inner bitterness.” I thought that the Smith’s remarks gave a lot of credit to Pitino for helping him “man up.” I have been impressed with the comments of both Calipari and Pitino leading up to this game.

      I hope that the majority of UL fans will follow Smith’s lead and get behind UK to win it all now. As Smith said why “hate anybody.” Had the game went the other way I would have wished the same for us.

      1. Larry Pup

        On your last statement, you are dreaming Kokamo. Good luck with that.

  3. Larry Pup

    That was humble thoughts and actions from Russ Smith. Class? That is a whole lot more than class in my book, that is an example of thoughtfulness, and grace. What a great player, and fine young man. He will always be a champion in my book based on this report from Larry V. I don’t hold many at UL dear, and never have, but that young man will have my admiration forever for this statement and for his UK locker room visit. That had to be hard. Splendid behavior. I wish Russ Smith all the best in life.

  4. joe bailey

    russ is the best person and best player in the pitino era at UL.

  5. David

    I have grown to really respect Russ Smith as a player and based on what I have seen and read, I respect as a person.

    I am glad the Kentucky showed him the respect a wonderful deserves. I am truly touched by his graciousness in defeat.

    Russ the diplomat? If there were more people around UofL athletics like Russ Smith, the rivalry would be less antagonistic and more about the celebration of excellence.

  6. Barry

    Russ Smith is a class act. I wish him well with whatever opportunity comes his way.

  7. gw

    Russ is a very talented player and classy person who likely learned a lot about basketball from coach P. I’m sure his class and character came from within, not so much from coach P., who could learn a thing or two from him. I hope Russ has a great career in the NBA.

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