A winning attitude
New men's basketball coach Frankie Smith looks to bring a culture of winning back to the men's basketball program, and to take them back to postseason play
October 29, 2007 —
When new men's basketball coach Frankie Smith first passed under the entryway to SVSU, he knew he was in the right place.
"You never know what a place is like until you go to it," Smith said. "I remember getting here on a Monday night at about 9 o'clock and I thought I'd go check out the University. When I drove up, it had a great feeling about it. It was really impressive.
"Once I got to the school and began the interview process, I became really excited about getting the job, and about the potential here at this school. I think it's really got a chance to have a great basketball program."
Smith comes to SVSU after being an assistant under former Saginaw High School coach Charlie Coles at Miami University (Ohio). His hire came in the wake of former coach Jamie Matthews' departure.
"Being an assistant for Charlie Coles was a great experience," said Smith. "He is one of the best coaches in the nation. It was a blessing to be with him for the last eight years."
In his eight years at Miami - a Division I school - the RedHawks had two appearances in the NIT coming in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, he helped coach the team to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost by two points to Oregon.
Coles isn't the only connection to the Saginaw area Smith has. Mike Watson, SVSU's athletic director, also came to Saginaw Valley from Miami. He worked there for 20 years, the last 11 of which as the associate director of athletics. However, Smith said that while they both worked at Miami, they didn't know each other very well.
"Obviously I knew Mike, but we weren't running around going out to dinner or anything," he joked.
"I'd have to concure with Frankie on that one," Watson said. "Our relationship was mostly professional, as I didn't oversee mens's basketball at Miami."
Watson actually played a small role in the selection process, purposly keeping himself out of it, saying he knew what it may look like, with the both of them being from Miami.
"I knew it look like I was just binging my guy over," said Watson.
A six person committee whittled a list of 94 applicants down to four. Of those four, the committee made a unanimous decision to recommend Smith.
"I had four criteria when looking to fill the position of men's baskeball coach," Watson said. "I wanted somebody who believed in academic success, somebody with a history of success, sombody who will treat our young men with respect both on and off the court, and somebody who could recruit Mid-Michigan."
Recruiting will be something the men's program will have to pay special attention to in the coming year. Due to his late arrival to SVSU Smith was unable to recruit very heavily, giving SVSU only seven scholarship players. Despite this, Watson still believes Smith can get SVSU on the winning track.
"He's a great basketball coach" Watson continued. "If you look at his scout games while in Miami, as well as their win percentage, it's clear Frankie understands the game."
Despite not knowing Watson very well during their time at Miami, Smith said he is one of the main reasons he decided to take the reins of the men's baskeball program.
"After I interviewed and was offered the job, Mike was one of the main reasons that I took the job," said Smith. "Mike has vision and passion for what he's doing. This University is blessed to have Mike here."
Smith shares Watson's passion for success, saying that anything less than an appearence in the GLIAC tournament is "unacceptable."
"We haven't been there for eight years," Smith said. "One thing I'm passionate about, and I know it's going to be tough, is getting us back to tournament this year."
However, Smith has the teams main goal this season even higher.
"That isn't my main goal. My main goal is to win the GLIAC."
Smith, whose wife and daughter remain in Ohio, made sure to bring at least one familar face with him to SVSU. He has hired Charlie Coles' son Chirs Coles, a graduate of Buena Vista, and maker of the famous 55-foot buzzer beater in the Class B 1986 state finals, as his assistant coach.
Not only does Smith want to bring a winning atmosphere to his team, he wants to see the same attitude carry over to the students.
"We want to have the craziest, most active student section not just in the GLIAC, but in the nation," said Smith. I want everyone who wants to see some good basketball to come see these games, because these guys are working really, really hard."