Smith cites recent family tragedy and need to be with family as reasons for stepping down.
For five years, head basketball coach Frankie Smith broke every huddle with his team on the word “family.”
Last weekend, he let them know that it was his own family in West Virginia that needed him most.
“I took them to dinner Saturday night and explained it to them,” said Smith, who announced his resignation last week. “I don’t think that any of them saw it coming, but no one tried to talk me out of it. They understand that I’m going closer to home to be with my family.”
Smith, who won a Class AA state championship as a high school coach in West Virginia before moving up the ranks in college basketball, said that he stepped down so that he and his wife could move closer to where they grew up, and where most of their relatives still live.
“All my career I’ve made professional decisions, but this one’s more of a personal decision so that my wife and I can get closer to home,” said Smith, whose daughter, a junior at SVSU, will remain in Saginaw to finish her degree.
Smith, 47, lost his father-in-law last October, and said he wanted to be closer to his own father, 68, a cancer survivor.
“He’s doing great now, but it was hard to get down to see him when he had surgeries or anything like that,” Smith said. “As you get older, you view things differently. You think your parents are going to live forever, and then all of a sudden that tragedy happened to my father-in-law.
“I’d like to watch a Sunday NFL football game with my father. I haven’t done that in 13 years, since I’ve left high school basketball.”
Smith left high school basketball in 1999 after leading Tug Valley High School to its first state crown. From there, he served as an assistant under the Mid-American Conference’s all-time wins leader Charlie Coles at Miami University for eight years.
In 2007, Smith was hired as SVSU’s head coach. He took the team from 9-17 in 2008-2009 to 16-12 in 2009-2010, leading the Cardinals into the GLIAC tournament for the first time since 1998-1999 and earning GLIAC “Coach of the Year” honors in the process.
In 2011-2012, SVSU finished only 10-16, losing its last seven games of the season. Smith said that the disappointing finish did not play a role in his decision to resign.
“We went 10-16, but I think if we had gone 16-10, I’d still making the same decision,” Smith said. “We’d even talked before the season about considering it at the end of the year.”
SVSU graduates only two seniors this season, Greg Foster and Eli Redman. The current roster consists of all players recruited by Smith, including three redshirt freshmen that have yet to see playing time in Cardinal red.
“Every player that I recruited, I expected to coach them their whole career here,” said Smith. “I told my team that I would not have gotten a 30-year mortgage on my house if I thought I would be leaving in two years.
“I had intentions of being here for 10 or 15 years.”
Smith’s resignation came with full support from the SVSU athletic department.
“I would like to thank Coach Smith for his five seasons of dedicated work here at SVSU and wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Mike Watson, SVSU director of athletics.
SVSU will now attempt to replace Smith, who compiled a career record of 60-73 as the coach of the Cardinals, as well as assistant coach Charlie Coles, who announced his departure for a head coaching job at Olivet College last week.
“We are in the process of conducting a national search for our next head basketball coach,” said Director of Athletic Media Relations Matthew Woodbury, who did not disclose an estimated time frame for the school’s decision.
Smith said that he would go back to West Virginia and look for work, either as a head coach at the high school or Division 2 level, or as an assistant at a Division 1 school.
“From the bottom of my heart, the five years I’ve been here, I’ve given all that I possibly could,” Smith said. “I’ve had a great experience here, and I’ve loved it.
“One thing that’s for sure, I’ll live and die coaching. There’s nothing in this world I want to do more than teach and coach.”