Coach Brad Brownell recently filled out his coaching staff with the addition of Georgia Southern assistant coach Steve Smith. The hiring puts an end to a very odd coaching search that Brownell has conducted since his top assistant, Rick Ray, left to become the head coach at Mississippi State back on April 1st. Brad's initial replacement, former VT assistant James Johnson, only stayed in Tigertown for a week before leaving to replace his old boss as the head coach of the Hokies.
Smith was born in Varnville, SC. Never heard of it before? Me neither, but after a quick google and read up on Wikipedia I found out that it was a town of about 2,100 in the middle of nowhere in the lower state. Just FYI. Anyways, Smith played his high school ball at Wade Hampton (the one in Varnville, not Greenville). After playing a couple of years of college ball at Morgan State, Smith joined the army, serving from 1994 to 2000. While in the service, he was selected to the All-Army basketball team, which gave him the opportunity to play against other military branches, as well as college teams and even some international squads. His first job in coaching was at Allen University in Cola, where he spent two years as an assistant women's coach. He was then hired at USC Upstate as an assistant on the men's team, and after a few seasons he was promoted to the top assistant on the staff, a position he held for four seasons before jumping to Georgia Southern in 2009 under Charlton Young.
The hire seems to have been made with recruiting in mind, as Smith was the top assistant at USC Upstate from 2005 to 2009 and knows the area well. Brad's coaching search also included UMass's Antwon Jackson and Marquette's David "Aki" Collins. It's interesting that, out of the final three candidates for the position, Brownell chose the guy from the smallest program. But considering that Smith is the only one with local ties, the decision makes sense from a recruiting standpoint. Jackson spent most of his time in the DC area (he worked as an assistant at William and Mary, and was an AAU coach for several DC area teams prior to that) before being hired by UMass in 2008; Collins started his coaching career at Colorado before stints as an assistant at Howard, Marshall, and Marquette. Another guy we thought might get interviewed was Mark Byington at CofC, but James Johnson hired him up quickly.
So if the hire was made with recruiting in mind, just how good of a recruiter is this guy? Well basketball recruiting information is a little sparse and more hectic to follow. Georgia Southern head coach Charlton Young called him "one of the premier young recruiters in the South," but one would hope that his own boss would think highly of him. Young himself was Paul Hewitt's right hand recruiter from 2005-2009, the only reason Hewitt lasted as long as he did at Georgia Tech. We can only hope Young saw Smith as a younger version of himself. Whether or not Tiger fans think highly of him in a few years time remains to be seen. Ever since OP left, we've struggled to get any high profile recruits, and have had to settle for a bunch of three star guys instead. Hopefully Smith can help to pull in some big time recruits; we definitely need to up the talent level in Tiger town, especially with Pitt and Syracuse joining the league in just a couple of seasons (assuming we stay in the ACC anyway).
I was a bit surprised when I heard about this hire. Out of all the coaches out there, you get a guy from Georgia Southern?! But you also have to remember that this is not Brownell's first choice (Johnson was), and hiring a great coach in late May is probably a harder thing to do than getting one in early April, right after the season ends. I'm willing to take a wait and see approach about this hire. Smith appears to be a good recruiter, and his local ties are certainly a big plus in the recruiting game. This hire could turn out to be a great one...or a terrible one. My gut tells me that this was a good hire, and that Smith will help us out a lot on the recruiting trail, but only time will tell.