GENE PHELPS: Booneville’s Smith coaches basketball, not girls

Charles A. Smith | Buy at photos.djournal.com Michael Smith has won state titles with Booneville's boys and girls teams.

Charles A. Smith | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Michael Smith has won state titles with Booneville’s boys and girls teams.

JACKSON

Michael Smith doesn’t care for coaching labels.

In 2011, he was Booneville’s boys basketball coach when they won the state championship.

On Friday afternoon, he was Booneville’s girls basketball coach when they won the program’s first gold ball.

He’s a coach, period.

“I think (UConn coach) Geno Auriemma can coach men’s basketball,” Smith said, following his team’s 56-51 victory against Belmont, their Northeast Mississippi and Division 1-3A rival. “I think (Belmont girls coach) Chris Higginbottom can coach boys.

“None of us is any smarter than the other. It’s can you get people to jell. Can you motivate them on a daily basis, because the season is a long grind.”

Smith, who had the girls’ job dropped in his lap in early October when the previous coach stepped down, inherited a team with one senior – a really good one in guard Dashiyah Agnew (20 points in championship game) – and some talented freshmen, including a budding superstar in guard Adallice Young.

“The transition was a little hard the first couple of weeks,” Agnew said of the coaching change. “Once we got used to it, everything went smooth.”

Still, Smith’s experience coaching girls was in his words: “Softball … and I’ve got a daughter.”

Translation: Not a lot.

He didn’t have long to prepare for the challenge of coaching both girls and boys. The only solution for Smith and his staff – Micah Moment and Brian Windham – was to coach the girls like they coached the boys.

“We do the same drills, run the same offense, because it’s too confusing,” Smith said. “You can’t have 50 different calls. We tried to coach them up. …

“It’s coaching people to play basketball. It’s not coaching girls to play basketball.”

Young, who scored 12 points against Belmont, thought great things were ahead when Smith came aboard.

“He had taken the boys to state (three straight seasons, 2011-13),” she said. “I believed we were going to state.”

Smith was all smiles Friday afternoon standing with his newly-crowned state champions on the floor of the Big House. Honestly, he thought last season’s heart-breaking one-point loss to Velma Jackson in the 3A boys title game ended his gold ball dreams.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to coach these girls,” he said. “I’ve been blessed.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com