By KYLE LOVERN
(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part interview with new Mingo Central head boys’ basketball coach Frankie Smith.)
To say that the last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Frankie Smith and his wife Jill is an understatement.
Smith, a native of Chattaroy, recently returned home to his roots to become the second head coach at the newly consolidated Mingo Central High School.
Smith and his family had been living in Saginaw, Michigan where he was the head coach at Saginaw Valley State University. However, a longing to return home and be close to their families saw Smith seek a job closer to Mingo County.
Little did he know that the job at MCHS would come open so quickly, but when Duane Estepp resigned right after the Miner’s first season, the door opened and Smith ran through it.
“It really has been a whirlwind,” Smith said. “My wife and I definitely decided, due to some family issues, that we wanted to get closer to home. I was looking at several jobs, but fortunately Mingo Central was as close to home as I could get and I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to be the new men’s basketball coach.”
To say that Smith has been welcomed with open arms is also an understatement. “I think everybody loves me right now,” Smith said jokingly. “But like I was telling my players – it’s kind of the honeymoon right now.”
“Everybody thinks I’m a great coach – until we lose our first game,” Smith said with a laugh. “Then I won’t know anything as a coach.”
But on a serious note, Smith is hoping to build a program that can compete year in and year out.
“After being here for three weeks, we definitely have to have a total culture change,” Smith said on the attitude toward work ethic. “This time next year in the 3-week period that we have to work with them, there cannot be anyone saying to me – ‘I have a dental appointment and I can’t be there tomorrow,’ or ‘I have this to do and won’t be at practice.’ These three weeks are the only time we have to work with them until November.”
“So just the whole culture and attitude has to change,” Smith said. “I don’t want a situation where a guy says his alarm clock didn’t go off. That’s just not acceptable.”
“They have to understand the expectations that are going to be put on them by me,” Smith said. “I think they may have a clue after the recent three weeks, but we still have a long way to go.”
“Basketball – as with any sport – has to be a year around commitment,” Smith added. “If you’re going to be good, we just have to change the mentality of discipline, being on time, being committed and working on your game every day.”
Smith said that kids will have to accept their roles. That is how a team is molded and becomes successful.
He said players need to learn the basic fundamentals like boxing out, sliding on defense, shooting baskets every day and to shoot at least 100 free throws each day.
The longtime coach knows that he does not have a lot of experienced players coming back this season. Only two returning players, Austin Banks and Alex Lee, saw any significant playing time last year.
There were several seniors that graduated that filled the roster of the first-ever basketball team for the Miners last season. However, this means Smith will have the chance to build the program from scratch.
He also plans to stress the need for strong academics. “I want these kids to have a goal to go on to college and get their educations,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a learning process,” Smith said.