Boy, he's sure glad he stayed.
"I was leaving, but I talked to my dad and decided to come back," Smith remembered. "I decided to work hard and try to earn some minutes."
He still gets into it with Pitino from time to time — remember, the coach dubbed him "Russdiculous" for some of his wacky shots and perplexing antics — but it's hard to envision where this team might be without him.
"I just try to make winning plays," Smith said. "I don't look at myself as a point guard or a shooting guard. I look at myself as a winning player."
Pitino is certainly a winner.
He's already the first coach to lead three schools to the Final Four. Now, he's got a chance to become the first to win national titles at two schools, having led Kentucky to a championship in 1996.
Pitino isn't worried about personal accolades.
He'd rather have a lifelong connection with this team.
"I haven't thought about it for one second," Pitino insisted. "Everything we do is about the team, about the family. I'd be a total hypocrite if I said (winning another title is) really important. It really is not important. I want to win because I'm part of this team. That's it."