Basketball practice

A Coach Smith practice

Coach Smith used to say it was a privilege to practice at UNC-Chapel Hill. As players, I don’t think many felt that was true. However, as time passed, I believe almost all of his former players came to agree with him.

Practice was mentally and physically challenging. He was prepared each day to give you his best, and he expected the same from you. Below are some things I remember most vividly from those practices.

  1. The whistle. Each practice began the same way, with a whistle and a sprint to midcourt. Coach Smith would blow his whistle, and everyone sprinted to him at midcourt. You did not want to be the last one to arrive!
  2. A thought of the day. Every practice had an offensive and defensive emphasis of the day. Each player was expected to know what it was and to make sure it was carried out in each drill all day long. He also provided a thought of the day, something for you to think about. Mostly they were quotes from famous people or ideas on how to be a better person.
  3. The pace. The pace of practice was quick – each drill was timed to the minute, and you were expected to run as you changed drills or positions on the court. One of his pet peeves was wasted time.
  4. One voice. For the most part, there was only one voice: his. He was the coach and leader during practice. There was never any question as to who was in charge.
  5. Competition. Coach believed in measuring everything we did in practice. There were winners and losers in every drill. At the end of each practice, the losers of each drill ran additional sprints. Though he never spent much time talking about winning, we all understood the importance. The amount of running we did during practice is something that remains fresh in my memory, even after all these years! I wish it were a more pleasant memory, but I do find comfort in knowing I survived.
  6. Charts. Coach also charted many things: shooting, rebounds and turnovers are the ones I recall vividly. He also had the managers record great hustle plays. Those hustle plays became a type of currency for a player. You could get out of running a sprint if you had enough “hustle points” built up. It was a great way for a leader to reward the actions he wanted done.

Practice was where Coach Smith did his best work. I was privileged to have a front row seat for four years. There is much more to share and I look forward to continuing the memories and stories.