Coach Steve Smith
“An Even Better Man”
Steve Smith was born in Ohio and raised in rural Kentucky since he was in he sixth grade, and it is only fitting that he is coaching in the rural Appalachian Mountain foothills, nestled along the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Coach Smith graduated from Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, and holds a Master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky. He is now in his 30th season at Oak Hill Academy, located in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. Coach Smith has built an unprecedented resume and is considered by most basketball experts to be the greatest high school basketball coach of all time (G.O.A.T.).
Before the 2013-14 season, Coach Steve Smith and Oak Hill had won the mythical national championship eight times (1993, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2012) and were runners-up six times (1990, 1992, 2000, 2002, 2006, and 2009). Year in and year out, Coach Smith plays one of the toughest schedules in the country. USA Today named Coach Smith the National High School Coach of the Year in 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2012. In 2012, he was named the Naismith Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, making him the only coach to win this prestigious honor twice.
Coach Smith is simply a “player’s coach.” He gains respect by implementing and holding his players accountable to his strict rules and the discipline that is associated with Oak Hill Academy. More importantly, Coach Smith has a gift for getting high profile players to “buy into” the program and put team success ahead of individual accomplishments. Coach Smith has always believed that individual success would come if team success were achieved. This philosophy has been a winning formula for Coach Smith for his 29 years as head coach of Oak Hill Academy. While recognizing and celebrating all the accolades of a successful coaching career, we want to talk about Steve Smith the man.
Coach Smith has been married to his college sweetheart, Lisa McBride, for 33 years, and together they reside in rural Piney Creek, North Carolina. They have two children, daughter Stephanie, who resides in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Justin Atkins, and son Sean, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah Winslow. One thing is for certain, whenever you see Coach Smith, he is well groomed and looks like he just stepped out of GQ magazine. He is an impeccable dresser and takes great pride in his appearance. Everything looks custom-made and tailored and this alone speaks volumes about him as a person.
On November 15, 2013, Coach Smith won his 900th career game at Oak Hill Academy. At that time, we asked Coach Smith the reason for his success and he humbly replied, “old age and having quality players.” That one statement will tell you a lot more about Steve Smith the man, rather than Steve Smith the coach. We turned to some of those “quality players” to ask them their thoughts on the future legendary Hall of Fame coach.
We spoke with Cory Alexander who is currently employed with Raycom Sports of the ACC Basketball Network. Cory was from a small town Waynesboro, Virginia and attended and played for Coach Steve Smith during the 1990-1991 season where he was named to the prestigious McDonald’s All American team. He was drafted with the 29th pick by the San Antonio Spurs and played seven years in the NBA with the Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and Charlotte Bobcats, averaging 5.5 PPG and almost 3 APG for his career. Cory has played for plenty of coaches in his high school, college and NBA career, but without question, he said, “Coach Smith is my favorite coach of all time. He understands personal relationships and makes you respect him as a person and as a coach. His greatest attribute is his honesty. Coach Smith is a straight shooter, he is direct and always to the point. He doesn’t swear and most of all is a great role model. Coach Smith always told me to use basketball as a tool to get to where I wanted to go.”
We asked Cory if he had any special moments to share and without hesitation mentioned the time Oak Hill scrimmaged D2 School Alice Lloyd College.
You see, I was the team’s point guard and on this night I proceeded to score 52 points. While we were on the bus on our return trip back to Oak Hill, Coach Smith stated, if I wanted to be a shooting guard I could score 50 points every night, but that is not going to make me a player for the next level. That one moment taught me he was more concerned about my development as a player which made an impression to this very day.
One of the biggest honors for Cory Alexander came this past November when he was asked to present Coach Smith with the plaque honoring him for his 900th career win.
Corey Baker, who is now a licensed professional mental health counselor and assistant head coach of Village Christian varsity boys team in Fayetteville, North Carolina, played for Coach Smith from 1988-1990.
Playing for Coach Smith was the best experience in my life. He taught me how to play the game and how it relates to life. Without question, Coach Smith gave me the urge to be a coach. Being around Coach Smith made me want to be a coach one day. I learned so much from him and wanted to use this to impact others.
What impressed me about Coach Smith is he is one of the most caring people you will ever meet. He cares about you as a person and not just basketball. More than anything, Coach Smith respects everyone’s feelings. While I didn’t always make the best decisions and didn’t make it to the NBA, he was always there for me. I remember when I had the opportunity to break Rod Strickland’s single game assist record of 22. He was the one giving me encouragement and was as happy as I was for breaking it.
Junior Burrough played for Coach Smith during the 1991-1992 season. The Charlotte native now resides in Chesapeake, Virginia, and does color commentary for the ACC network. He was the 33rd pick in the NBA draft and played one season for the Boston Celtics. Junior Burrough has fond memories on his time at Mouth of Wilson and playing for Coach Smith.
Coach Smith is very disciplined which is exactly what I needed. He is such a humble person and will help you get to the next level. One thing about Coach Smith, he never sugar coats anything. He gave direct messages and told you what you needed to hear. He had a unique way of changing people’s lives and has the ability to understand player. I never heard him swear one single time and was a mentor to me even while I was a played at Virginia. We still have a great relationship today and in my opinion is the best coach ever.
What separated Coach Smith from his peers was he was a God fearing man. Coach Smith kept God in his life and his ability to lead changed and saved people’s lives. He does it with a humble arrogance. What always impressed me about Coach is his calm demeanor on and off the court. On the court, he is always calm and cool. Not only was he my coach, but also he was my mentor and role model. Coach would always tell you what you needed to hear and not what you wanted to hear. I know this; he saved my life and allowed me to meet my full potential.
Ben Davis grew up in Ft. Pierce, Florida and played for Oak Hill from 1989-1991. He attended Kansas and Arizona and played for legendary coaches, Roy Williams and Lute Olson. The Phoenix Suns drafted him and he played four years in the NBA (two for Phoenix and two for the NY Knicks).
He is a great coach, but even a better man. He is the best teacher/coach I have ever been around. When I came to Oak Hill, I was just a big athlete with zero skills, but when I left, developed into a skilled player that got drafted by the NBA. Coach Smith was my father figure. We had a strong father/son type relationship and always wanted to be around him. I was a basketball junkie and enjoyed being around Coach Smith and hearing all his basketball stories. Not one single time, did Coach Smith ever say a negative thing about anyone? He is an understanding, but firm. Everyone on the team respected him and everyone knew who was in charge. Coach Smith told you exactly the way it was! You have to respect a man for being honest all the time and when he spoke, his words were golden.
Coach Smith was like a dad to me. I was 15 years when I got to Oak Hill. Without question, he changed my life and 95% of my credit/success goes directly to him.
Ben also noted that he and Calvin Raeford were the first McDonald’s All Americans to play for Roy Williams at the University of Kansas. As far as coaching, he said,
I was the most blessed player. I loved playing for Roy Williams and Lute Olson, but it was Coach Smith that paved the way for me. He prepared me and was the best coach I ever had. Loved Roy Williams and Lute Olson, but I will tell anyone that! My game changed under Coach Smith, he developed me and made me a hundred times better. One of my most special moments came when Mrs. Smith and Coach gave me the news that I got my SAT scores back and I qualified for college. As I looked at my test scores, Mrs. Smith had tears running down her cheeks. While Coach Smith was a great coach, he was the best man I have ever been around.
Jordan Adams played for Coach Steve Smith for two seasons (from 2010-2012) and was a member of the winningest team in Oak Hill history, going 44-0 and winning the High School National Championship. Jordan Adams, now a star at UCLA, stated,
Playing for Coach Smith was like playing for a legend. The respect that people gave him when they saw him was remarkable. Also, he won eight national championships and coached over 26 NBA players, so obviously he knows how to coach. I was so fortunate to play for him for two years. The one thing about Coach Smith is he cared for you as a person. He also had a great sense of humor and could crack jokes, but one thing he doesn’t like his losing! I think he wants to win more than anything.
Tyler Lewis played on the 2011-12 national championship team and remarked, “Playing at Oak Hill was one of the best memories in my life. I am honored to play for such an amazing basketball program and Hall of Fame Coach. While it was difficult to leave Forsyth Country Day, but once I went to visit Oak Hill and meet Coach Smith, I realized that was the place I needed to be. Playing for Coach Smith is like you’re playing in one big basketball family. He is an incredible coach and knows how to get the best out of his players.
The one thing I loved from the first day I stepped on campus was how intense, but fun practices were. I looked forward to the last class of everyday because that’s when practice started. Coach Smith never seemed to get upset which was great because he was always positive with all his players. Even though he really never got too upset, he still held them accountable and responsible for their actins and penalized players for doing something wrong. Although Coach Smith is the greatest high school coach, he is even a better person. He is always looking after me and wanting what is best for me. He is a person I can talk to whenever I need him. Without a doubt, he will always help me out if I ever need him.
Coach Smith is someone who demands excellent so I tried every time I was playing for him to give him my best. He’s the type of person and coach that you just want to please. Sometimes it’s hard to describe, but when you play for a man of high character like Coach Smith, everyone wants to give him their best effort.
I have come to know Coach Smith on a more personal level over the past three years, and initially, like many others, I was impressed and mesmerized by his reputation. When you walk onto the Oak Hill campus located in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, the first observation you will make is simply, “This is Oak Hill?” Walking into the storied Turner Gymnasium, one can’t but be in awe of all the banners and the list of Oak Hill alums. I remember the first time I walked into Coach Smith’s office and sat down to talk to him. You don’t often get a chance to speak to a Hall of Fame coach, and I was surprised by how humble and genuine Coach Smith is. He has a “confident politeness” to him that draws out your immediate admiration and respect.
During the 2011-2012 season, I watched most Oak Hill games and countless practices and open gyms. I was amazed at the calmness and patience he displayed with his players. Rarely did you hear Coach Smith raise his voice. As a matter of fact, I’ve never heard the man swear or speak in a negative way toward another individual. He is the most respectful man I have ever met (along with Tom Konchalski). While Coach Smith is without question the greatest high school coach of all time, I’ve come to appreciate that he is an even better man, which given his exceptional basketball accomplishments, is saying a lot.
Coaching Career Summary
- Career coaching record as of February 8, 2014: 923-62 in 29 years as Oak Hill Academy Head Coach, with a winning percentage of 94% (highest in basketball history)
- 2-time Naismith High School Coach of the Year (2009, 2012)
- 4-time USA Today High School Coach of the Year (1994, 1999, 2004, 2012)
- 8 High School National Championships (1993, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012)
- 6 High School National Runner-Up Teams (1990, 1992, 2000, 2006, 2009)
- Achieved four 40+ win seasons (2005-2006, 2006-2007, 2008-2009, 2011-2012)
- Enjoyed 65-game win streak (2000-2002)
- Coached 28 McDonald’s All Americans
- Coached 27 NBA Draftees
- Coached over 150 Division I Student-Athletes
- Served as Head Coach for High School All Star Games
McDonald’s All American Game, St. Louis, MO (1995)
Jordan Brand Classic (2002, 2007)
Kentucky Derby Festival (1991, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2011)
McDonald’s Capitol Classic (1989)
Dapper Dan Roundball Classic (1991, 1994)
Magic Johnson Roundball Classic (1994)
Dapper Dan Roundball Classic (1991, 1994)
Nike-Chicago Sun Times All Star Classic (1993)
Nike World Global Challenge in Portland, OR (2007)