After 21 years of coaching, Kent Smith has decided “it’s time to go.”
“I’ve had time to reflect. While I still love the game and will deeply miss the relationships coaching allows you to have with players and other coaches, I just feel like at this point and time I don’t have the drive it takes to do it,” the winningest coach in Bradley Central Bear history stated Monday.
“My style of coaching is very physically and emotionally draining. I don’t have that competitive edge I would need to get back in it. I don’t want to fake it,” he remarked.
A few weeks before preseason practice began last October, Smith announced he was going to take a leave of absence for the 2013-14 season while he recovered from knee replacement surgery.
“I’m still recovering from the surgery, but that’s not why I’m stepping down,” he related. “I’ve always asked my players to give their all and I did the same. I don’t feel like I can do that anymore. I’ve been contemplating this for the last three or four years and after seeing what a great job Chuck (Clark) and Patrick (Spangler) did this past season, I feel very good about putting the program in their hands.”
Clark, who has been Smith’s assistant coach the entire 17 years he was on the Bear bench, led Bradley to the District 5-AAA regular season title with a 10-2 league mark and a 16-12 overall record this past season, as well as a No. 1 seed for the 5-AAA Tournament. He was voted by his fellow coaches as the District Coach of the Year.
Smith will be available to Clark for advice and help with anything the new Bear head coach might need. “Chuck and I have a great relationship and friendship. I’m not going to be hovering over the program, but I’ll be available for anything he thinks I can help with.”
One of the ventures Smith will continue is working with the summer fundraising golf tournament which benefits both the boys and girls basketball programs and is named in memory of his dad — Gary Smith.
Smith’s family roots run deep in Bradley basketball history, with his grandfather, M.C. “Tip” Smith having coached the Bears in the 1940s and ’50s, posting a 325-58 record as well as winning state titles in 1940 and ’42. He was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.
“I remember him taking me to Bradley games on Friday nights as a kid,” the younger Smith commented. “We were very close. We have a family legacy with the Bears. My dad and I bonded over the team. He and I would talk about the games and even when he couldn’t come to the games, we’d talk right afterward. It’s been tough these last couple of years without him.” Gary Smith passed away in May 2011.
Smith broke his grandfather’s record for victories a few seasons back and steps away with an overall mark of 436-145, including a 73-30 postseason mark, five TSSAA state tournament appearances and the state runner-up plaques from 2000 and 2003.
“We’ve had some really great players come through here and I’ve built relationships that will last a lifetime. That’s the thing I’ll miss the most,” Smith related. “We (the Bears) were always relevant in the district and region races.”
Under Smith, the Bears went 119-33 in District 5-AAA play, winning nine district championships, including a half dozen straight, and finishing second five other times. His squads advanced to the region tournament each of his 17 years, winning eight region titles, including five in a row. He also coached in 11 TSSAA substate games, winning five.
Making three straight state tournaments (2002-04) and four of five (2000, 2002-04), plus posting a 50-game home winning streak (entire 2001-02 season until Jan. 9, 2006) are some of the-on court accomplishments Smith is proud of.
In 21 years, Smith has also coached volleyball, tennis and golf. A teacher for 28 years, he will continue those duties at BCHS. “There’s a difference in coaching and teaching,” he related. “As a coach you are working 14 to 15 hours a day, plus you don’t see your family much during the season. Now I am able to spend time at home, and for the first time in 17 years got to spend Christmas with my wife’s (Karen’s) family.
“We (he and his wife) are empty nesters now, so we are getting to know one another all over again,” he added. “One of my character flaws, is I would put too much pressure on myself as a coach. That meant I wasn’t the easiest person to live with during the season. Karen, and our kids, Megan and Jordan, had to put up with a lot while I was coaching, and I want to thank them for their support.”
Smith also expressed his gratitude to people like Jerry Frazier, David Cawood and Dale Woodard, who gave him an opportunity to coach at Bradley, as well as current principal Todd Shoemaker and athletic director Turner Jackson.
“The administration has always been very supportive of me and Turner Jackson is the hardest-working AD around,” Smith remarked. “My assistant coaches — Bob Williams, Jason Reuter, Chuck (Clark) and Patrick (Spangler) — have been big parts of our success.
“The players and building those relationships were the best part of the job,” he assessed. “I hear from former player all the time. They tell me how much playing here meant to them.
“Father Joel Huffstetler, of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, gave me some good guidance and has been helping me pray about this decision,” Smith commented. “I’ve sought counsel from many of my fellow longtime coaches as well as friends. I feel at peace about the decision to step down.
“The program is in good hands with Chuck (Clark) and Patrick (Spangler). That makes this easier to do,” he concluded. “They are both former (Bear) players and have been a big part of the program for a long time, and will be for many years to come.”