Billy Smith, father of UT player, dies

Billy Smith never got a chance to see his son wear orange and white.

The father of University of Tennessee basketball player Tyler Smith died late Wednesday night after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.

“We’ve known this day was going to be coming,” UT coach Bruce Pearl said Thursday of Smith’s long illness. “We just hoped it wouldn’t come so soon.”

Pearl got the call late Wednesday from Tyler saying his father had passed away.

The transfer from Iowa did manage to make it to his father’s bedside to say his final goodbye. Billy Smith had moved from Pulaski to McMinnville.

Pearl, out of town recruiting on Thursday, said it’s obviously an emotional time for the UT program.

“Anytime a parent gives you the responsibility of helping them with their job, and accepting their son as a student athlete, I take that responsibility very seriously,” he said. “In this case, with Billy and Tyler, Billy made sure I understood that he probably wasn’t going to be here to see Tyler all the way through.

“He was entrusting me with the responsibility of helping Tyler achieve his goals and realize his potential both on and off the court.”

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized as of Thursday afternoon.

Pearl’s main focus right now is on helping Smith make it through the difficult weeks ahead.

“Tyler is not just a good kid, he’s a great kid,” Pearl said. “He has terrific character and he’ll get through this.

“He has been preparing himself for this day. It’s very tough, but our team will go up there and support him at the appropriate time this week.”

Smith had been granted a hardship waiver this past summer from the NCAA allowing him to transfer from Iowa to Tennessee without penalty so he could be closer to his father.

Instead of having to sit out a year, the NCAA said Smith would become immediately eligible to play for the Vols this fall.

The hope was Smith’s father would be present for UT’s season opening game Nov. 9 at Thompson-Boling Arena against Temple.

“That didn’t happen,” Pearl said, “but Tyler will continue to honor his father with the work he does for the rest of his life.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward averaged 14.9 points and was a third-team All-Big 10 selection as a freshman last season.

Pearl and Billy Smith had mended fences after a difficult initial meeting in Pearl’s first season as UT coach.

Tyler Smith was a standout at Giles County High School and signed with Tennessee and former coach Buzz Peterson in November of 2004, but asked for his release when Pearl replaced Peterson in the spring of 2005.

Smith eventually played one season at Hargrave Military Academy before signing with Iowa.

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Comments » 16

buxavol writes:

Very sad, even if expected. You cannot truly prepare yourself for the passing of a parent-I know from experience.
It shines the light of significance on what is genuinely important. Not a game...a team...or even a coach-but on a father, taken long before his time, and a family, greiving over this tragic loss.
May God bless Tyler & his family.

volhoopsfan001 writes:

Sad new. My condolences go out to Tyler and his family in this difficult time.

Basketball_Jones writes:

GVX was late running this tory....I read it at work at 9am this morning....Sorry to hear this, hopefully Tyler is doing ok

PureOrange writes:

Condolences to Tyler and his family. It will really be hard on him no matter what, but I hope our team will help him have an outstanding season personally and as a team, one in which he will know his father would be very proud.

Titan writes:

My recollection is that some folks questioned the NCAA for letting Tyler get the hardship waiver because they didn't think Billy was really that sick. I guess they'll go quietly into the night now. I doubt that Billy could have found a better person than BP to guide Tyler through the next couple of years. Rest in peace Billy.

Urbiewerecomingtogetyou writes:

You have my sympathy with the loss of your father. I to lost my dad back in February of this year, also from a long illness. May God comfort you and your family during this time.

MissUT writes:

My heart goes out to Tyler and his family. It's a shame his father never got to see him play at UT. Kudos to Coach Pearl for his committment to his players...I believe he takes his responsibility to them seriously. Tyler, no doubt, will be in good hands.
My thoughts and prayers for the Smith family and hope they can find some comfort in knowing that the Vol Family cares.

ggcolyer#634308 writes:

Our Prayers to Tyler , and his Family.However Billy will watch him play.

pkaplan writes:

Late running the story? ... sorry but like anything a death has to be confirmed and we were unable to talk to Bruce Pearl until the afternoon. This is not the ame as a position change or an injury. ... We have different standards than other Web sites. We still use the same procedures to post a story on the Web that we do in print.

rwilli4#225953 writes:

I'm sorry to hear this for their family and for Tyler. God had a plan and it has been carried out. I lost my mother after a long illness and understand the pain, but Joy will come from the memories. God Bless.

CoverOrange writes:

Thanks for the explanation Phil, nobody wants a Mark Twain experience. Like the story on the Morris twins, thanks for holding back.

Is there a memorial or charity to donate to?

Urbiewerecomingtogetyou writes:

There should not even be a hint of the controversial issues brought up in this thread. I'm sure everyone has sympathy for Tyler and his family.

DenmarkVol_aka_Mbumburu writes:

Very sorry for your loss, Tyler. Treasure the memories and believe that your father is watching you because he is.

From a neighbor in Columbia...

bleed_orange writes:

My prayers go out to Tyler and his family. I know his teammates and coaches will surround him with lots of love and support. I hate that his dad didn't get to see him play in one game as a VOL. However, like LazhilUTDelt said he is still looking down on him a very proud papa. Tyler sounds like he is a great kid and has only great things ahead of him instore as a VOL and outside in the real world. I look forward in watching him play. Tyler we got your back! GO VOLS!

shoalcreekvol writes:

Our prayers go up for you Tyler. God bless your family.

TSNVol writes:

God Bless, my prayers go out to Tyler and the Smith family. I lost my dad (A VOL FAN) in 2004 and you really can't prepare for it. You'll think of him every day and smile when you do. Just remember your dad is watching...just do it, for him!!! Good Luck!!! We're with you all the way!!!

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