HPU's Smith not interested in retirement

·5 min read

Jun. 13—HIGH POINT — WIth the retirement of Roy Williams as head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski intending to do the same after the upcoming season at Duke, High Point University men's basketball coach Tubby Smith says he's been asked if he'll do the same as his contemporaries.

At the end of the month, Smith joins the ranks of 70-and-over Division I coaches that just lost Williams at 70 and will drop Krzyzewski, who will turn 74 before the upcoming season is over.

Smith is unsure if he'll last as long as Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, who will be 76 in November or will match Krzyzewski or even Florida State's Leonard Hamilton, who will be 73 in August.

"I don't know about that," Smith said.

But he's sure that he wants to remain at HPU long enough to turn around a program that's gone in the wrong direction and finished a combined 18-38 under his leadership the past two seasons.

"I'm not going anywhere, not for a while anyway," Smith said. "We need to get the program to where it can compete for a Big South championship. That was my goal when I came here and that's still my goal."

The men's basketball program has struggled while HPU's soccer, lacrosse and volleyball teams have captured conference championships in recent seasons. Smith doesn't feel any heat to get his program to that level.

"My dad told me a long time ago that what I do isn't pressure," Smith said. "A man working to feed his family, trying to keep a job, pay his bills, that's pressure. And if you don't put pressure on yourself, you are going to be patient with your players, you are not going to take short cuts, make rash decisions trying to win, or bend the rules. Pressure will break a lot of people. I like to think that's why I have survived for 40-something years."

Williams, who acknowledged a long friendship with Smith during his retirement announcement, said he felt he was no longer the right man for the job at UNC. Krzyzewski said he decided to stay just one more season after discussions with his wife.

Smith will reconnect with Williams at a Coaches Versus Cancer golf fundraiser at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on Sunday and Monday.

"It was the right time (for Williams)," Smith said. "That's what we talked about. Any coaching opportunity, but particularly college basketball with everything going on and the scrutiny you're and just the overall climate, it's challenging."

Kryzewski and Wiliams leave as major college basketball goes through changes that include more than 1,500 players having put their names in the NCAA portal for transferring schools, no requirement to sit out a year if they do transfer unlike the past; and legislation going into effect in a number of states July 1 that allows players to benefit from control of their name, image and likeness, or NIL.

Smith said the transfer portal would have had a major impact on the Panthers program for the upcoming season if its leading scorer from last season, John-Michael Wright, had stayed in it and gone to another school.

"His return gives me hope that we can be one of the best teams (in the Big South)," Smith said. "But kids now can transfer and be eligible right away. A kid can get mad and say 'I don't have to put up with this.' What can you do, what can you say. There are no repercussions. It's better for the student-athlete, to protect them.

"But I don't know what the trade-off is. I don't know how you are going to figure graduation rates. They don't care about that. What happened to education? That's just secondary now."

In addition to no penalty for undergraduate transfers, the NCAA is granting another year of eligibility because of the pandemics' impact on college athletics last year.

"I think you are already seeing the impact that it's having for the high school class of 2021," Smith said. "You take a program like us who took a fifth-year student from the portal (former Wesleyan standout David Caraher). That could have been a scholarship for a freshman. There are families and players probably disappointed because they may get an opportunity somewhere but it's not the opportunity they thought they were going to get.

"We had people who wanted to come here as freshmen and we had to tell them we're not sure: we've got a kid in the portal and we're not sure what he is going to do, and we had a player leave. So schools are waiting to see who they can get out of the portal, if they can get a guy who has played a few years, been in the fire and he's a more experienced player than if he was a freshman. "

Smith wants his players to make money from control of their NIL.

"I hope it benefits some of our players because some of them are active on social media, and we see how many followers they have," Smith said. "But again how are we going to monitor that? Who is going to regulate how much a player gets from the car dealership or restaurant chain or fitness center? It will be another set of rules and regulations ... We make decisions and then you have to figure out how to implement it and regulate it. Everything has a cap. NBA has a cap. NFL has a cap.

"The thing is, a recruit has five visits. A guy comes in with parents and his adviser or money manager. He's going to ask, how are you going to help me make the most money, Duke or Wake Forest or N.C. State or Carolina? It might be a bidding war. I've been on coaches calls with Roy and Mike and others, and that's one of the biggest concerns, where is this headed?"

gsmith@hpenews.com — 336-888-3519 — @HPEgreer

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