Flintstone trailblazer Antonio Smith now leading from the sidelines

February 2, 2011

Former Northern and MSU star Antonio Smith coaches the Northwestern freshman team at a recent game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

A loud thud travels outside of the Steve SchmidtGymnasium at Mott Community College. Inside, a janitor buffs the hardwood as a 6-foot-9, 260-pound man shoots jumpers and works on low post moves all alone.

Draped in all Michigan State University attire, Antonio Smith looks as if he’s preparing to compete in a highly competitive basketball game later in the evening. Sweat trickles down his face and seeps through his green and white practice jersey when he finally decides to take a quick break.

He’s 72 minutes early for his job as Mott’s assistant women’s basketball coach. When the actual players arrive nearly thirty minutes later, Smith’s already warmed up as he takes part in a few three-point shooting games with the team to help them get loose.

For the past month, the former MSU Spartan and Flint Northern graduate has served as Letitia Hughley’s assistant coach at Mott. Smith is also in his second season as the head coach for the freshmen boys basketball team at Northwestern High School. His hands-on approach and dedication to both positions have made him a perfect fit.

“His work ethic is unbelievable,” Hughley said. “He comes in the morning and works out with the girls and stretches with them and jogs with them and all that stuff.”

Northwestern varsity coach Dave Bush agrees.

“He’s been good all over the board, he’s our freshman coach and he helps with all of the teams actually,” Bush said. “He’s got so much knowledge and the kids are absorbing that every time he talks.”

Smith gained that knowledge through building an astounding hoops resume. In 1995, he led Northern to a Class A state championship and finished as the runner-up to Robert Traylor in the Michigan Mr. Basketball race. From 1995-1999, Smith helped rejuvenate MSU basketball. Smith is still considered by most as being the initial person to start the whole Flint-to-MSU pipeline. After college, Smith played three seasons in the Continental Basketball Association with the Great Lakes Storm and the Grand Rapids Hoops. He also played overseas in Italy for three seasons.

While on the court, Smith couldn’t picture himself leading a team from the sideline. The fact that no Flint city school has won a state championship since his team did it in1995 was enough to make him want to make a difference and help restore the city’s tradition.

There’s only one problem with being a coach.

“I cant check in,” Smith joked. “I just want my team to resemble me and when they’re not out there playing hard, I get frustrated at times on the sideline.”

He doesn’t have much to be mad about. The freshmen boys basketball team has won its first eight games of the season. Last year it finished with an 8-3 overall record. When Smith was in his prime, most of the kids he now coaches were still in diapers.

“I never seen him play but I heard about him,” 15-year-old Northwestern freshman, Cortez Lewis said. “I know he’s got trophies at Michigan State and stuff like that.”

Lewis was only three years old when Smith graduated from college. Smith played on the same team as some of their fathers growing up.

Coaching has been more than just a job for Smith, it’s helped him restore order into his personal life.

“It’s just a blessing. It will help me re-direct my life and get the discipline back in my life that it takes to get things in order,” Smith said. “I tell the guys on the team that the discipline that you learn in sports can carry over to your everyday life, and it’s helping me get things back in order with my family and with God and everything, so I’ve really benefited from coaching.”

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One Response to “Flintstone trailblazer Antonio Smith now leading from the sidelines”

  1. carlos collins said

    Thass wass up ! !

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