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Posted November 20, 2012 | Leave a comment
Smoot strives to rebuild basketball program
Coach has double dose of duties with leading both varsity, JV teams
By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- Patrick Smoot is determined to turn around the Stonewall Jackson boys basketball program.
In fact, the first-year varsity head coach is so focused on rebuilding the struggling program that when it came time to name a new junior varsity boys coach, Smoot wanted a perfect fit or no coach at all.
That perfect match didn't come, but Smoot had already thought of a solution.
"Basically, I volunteered [to coach the JV team]. Where the program needs to go, I felt like we needed to make sure all of the kids were getting the exact same stuff from the bottom up," Smoot said between practices on Monday. "So I ended up taking both. It happened that a couple of our assistants, their work schedule didn't permit it ... we decided I would just do both and go from there."
Smoot is a busy man these days, teaching health and physical education at Stonewall Jackson during the day before handling a double dose of coaching duties in the evening. For the last two weeks Smoot's typical workday has lasted from 7:30 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m.
But Smoot isn't alone in his quest to rebuild the program he once played for. Roger Wilkins, who served as an assistant boys basketball coach at Central last year, joined Smoot this season. Smoot then added Nate Ryman -- also a Stonewall Jackson alumnus -- to his staff last week.
Being the head coach of two different teams might sound complicated, but Smoot has made it work, thanks in large part to his assistants. Ryman handles the JV practice when Smoot has to leave to prepare for varsity practice, and Wilkins works the varsity team any time Smoot's session with the JV squad runs late.
"I'm surrounded by good assistants who I trust. That's the key," Smoot said. "I said coming in that I don't want to fill this [staff] with just anybody. I want it to be someone I can trust and who knows basketball. Yeah, I'm the varsity and the JV coach, but we're doing this and everybody is helping out in every spot."
Coaching two teams still has its challenges, and Smoot, who coached the JV team for the last two years, said he has to change his mindset when transitioning from one practice to the other.
Smoot's willingness to serve as the leader for the entire boys basketball program has certainly made its mark on his varsity players.
"It makes us realize how dedicated he is to the program and how much he really wants to change it," said junior point guard Colton Harlow. "It shows how excited he is and how much he wants to make an impact on the program."
"It means he's really serious about getting us back on track," senior Matt Litten added, "and not making people think that Stonewall basketball is just a joke."
Smoot understands the revitalization of Generals boys basketball won't happen overnight.
He knew when he accepted the job in April what challenges await a program that hasn't had a winning record since the 1997-98 season. Still, Smoot is determined to do things the right way.
During the first week of practice, which began on Nov. 5, Smoot sat down every player from the JV and varsity squads and went over a contract that included everything from expectations in the classroom to what to wear to basketball games, and even how to stand for the National Anthem.
"We're going to look like a team, we're going to play like a team and we're going to be a team," Smoot said. "If that's what it's going to take, then that's what we're going to do."
The Generals have only had a little over two weeks of practice so far, but Smoot said he is pleased with where the varsity team is at this point.
Smoot said one of the first steps to making Stonewall Jackson relevant once again in boys basketball is to help his players develop a competitive mentality. To help promote that, Smoot includes some one-on-one drills during practice in which the loser is required to do push-ups.
The players are already getting the message.
"We pretty much lost that [competitiveness] for a couple years because we weren't really positive. Now it's like we know that we can do this because he put that positive mentality in our heads," Harlow said. "Pretty much everything is a competition, which I really like because that's something that we've lost in the past and we're slowly gaining it back."
Stonewall Jackson opens its regular season at home against county rival Strasburg on Nov. 28, and the Generals are excited to take the court in what they see as a fresh start under a new coach.
"We still have a long way to go, we do. But the kids are picking things up -- they want to do better. These kids have wanted to win and wanted to be successful for years," Smoot said. "They know they have to fight an uphill battle, and it's not a quick fix but these kids are working hard.
"We can't take side roads, we've got to go straight through it, but we're on the right track."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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