|Bullets Journal||Wizards Biz||Wizards Web||Wizards Boards||Wizards Talk|
|The Bench Roster||The Locker Room||The Ball Boy|
IN MEMORIAM: Derek Smith--Bullets Assistant Coach, Family Man, NCAA Champion
Derek Smith (1962-1996)One of the best ways to offer a tribute to the memory of Derek Smith is the kind words from the people who were most impacted by Smith's life. (Thanks to Washington Post writer J.A. Adande for collecting many of these stories. For more on the story, see my news writeup.) He never personally entered my life, but by reading the testaments below, you can see that he entered the lives of a lot of other people in very special ways.
Washington Bullets Assistant Coach (1994-1996)
There he is: professional, friend, family man. It's horrible when someone dies, especially someone who showed continuing promise for the future. And your heart and prayers go out to his family. I hope the Bullets remember him and his family as they begin this season. So, as we approach this season, remember Derek Smith and everything that he did, both on the court and off it.
- Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon: "Derek Smith's voice usually sounded just like your conscience.
"Eat properly. Get your rest. Be a better listener, a better communicator. Work harder. Be tougher. Play smarter. Sacrifice.
"His world was professional basketball, so it sounded like a basketball conscience. But it was a voice you had to be behind the scenes to hear because Smith waws an assistant coach, a lieutenant, for the most part unnoticed by the camera and the crowd. But it was a yound voice, one with old-fashioned values, but fresh ideas about implementing them. It was a prepared voice, a strong, no-nonsense one. You would have grown to like it, to respect it in time because it was growing in stature and respect, except that we will never have that pleasure because Derek Smith is dead. At 34.
"Smith's death--the cause has not been determined--is not a tragedy because he was a sports figure; it's a tragedy because he was a hard-working man with an incredibly bright future, a father with two young children. And it is a tragedy because in full life he was already a nice story, a man who had gone from young star, to injured backup, to treasured role player to a coach who had seen all points of the circle and could help guide the directionless young men who gravitated toward basketball."
- Smith's agent, Ron Grinker: On one occasion, he [Grinker] was mad at Smith for failing to show for a "regular" workout between Grinker's clients before each season. Grinker waited at Xavier University for two hours and none of his clients showed up. He heard that Smith had taken them somewhere. It turned out that Smith had read about a youth who had been arrested for selling drugs. Smith had taken all of Grinker's clients, including Danny Manning and Craig Ehlo, to talk to the youth to make sure it didn't happen again. Said Grinker: "It didn't take me very long not to be mad anymore. That was just typical of the way he was."
- Smith's college coach, Louisville's Denny Crum: "Derek was such a special person. He came from a modest background and he was a self-made success story. he succeeded at everything he tried--earning his degree, becoming a great player in college, as a professional and as a coach. ... People like Derek just don't come along too often. It's a tremendous loss for his family and all fo us who cared about him."
- Bullets trainer Keven Johnson: "They [the players] could relate to him. Here's a guy who played in the league. He went over early with me to every game. Whether it was a guy we just signed to a 10-day contract or Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, he was there early and available to work with whoever. ...
"He was a great family man. He never missed his kids' track meets or tennis matches or basketball games or anything. He was a great father, a great husband."
- Bullets general manger Wes Unseld: "I don't think any of use know the impact; we know that we've lost a real good coach. He had a way with all those young guys. We know we've lost a very, very good person. It's going to be very difficult to fill that role. He developed a rapport with these guys that's very unique and special. ...
"Considering everything, his wife is unbelievable. She knows she's got two young kids to function with. She was unbelievable."
- Bullets president Susan O'Malley: "Whenever I think about Derek, I think about his two kids. He always had his kids with him. He loved those kids."
- Lastly, his daughter, Sydney Smith wrote an essay about her father in a recent issue of the Bullets' fan magazine:
"Dad spends much of his free time with Nolan and me. We are heavily involved in extra-curricular activities at school and dad is usually the person that takes us to and from these events. These are great opportunities for Nolan and me to talk with dad about things that are happening in our lives. He is a good listener and always has sound advice or a funny story that can teach us a lesson.
"I look up to my father. During his life, he has done many things and been successful at most. His character traits are definitely something to follow. Whether working on his game, studying late into the night, teaching fundamentals to an energetic NBA rookie or caring for the needs of his family, my dad has always given his best. Thanks dad!"
wtf 27 August 1996