Smith hired as Alcorn basketball coach

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2008

VICKSBURG — When Alcorn State athletic director Darren Hamilton needed to hire a men’s basketball coach, all he had to do was open the door.

On the other side of that door was former Alcorn and NBA standout Larry Smith, who was more than willing to come in and take over the reigns of a program that has fallen on hard times recently.

“There’s a song, that says ‘Somebody’s knocking on the door, somebody’s ringing a bell,’” Hamilton said. “All I had to do was open the door and let him in. It’s that simple.”

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Smith signed a four-year contract with a base salary of $125,000 per year to take over for Samuel West, who was fired after the Braves finished with a 7-24 record and failed to make the SWAC Tournament last season.

“It’s a real joy to be selected as the head basketball coach here,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Smith, who played for the Braves from 1976-1980 and was a two-time SWAC Player of the Year, comes to Lorman after having spent this past year as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.

Following his four years at Alcorn State, Smith enjoyed a successful 13-year career in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1981 and finished among the top 10 rebounders in the league five times.

After his playing career, Smith, 50, became an assistant coach in the NBA, winning two NBA championships with the Rockets as an assistant in 1994 and 1995.

Smith said it means a lot to come back to the college game, especially at his alma mater.

“I love the college game,” Smith said. “There’s more of an opportunity to teach and see the kids grow. I’m elated about coming back here.”

Hamilton said Smith’s name recognition as a former NBA player and coach will be a great asset for Alcorn State.

“We needed someone with name recognition,” Hamilton said. “Someone who can get fans in the stands, recruits into the program and can assist in fundraising. We also needed someone to relate to the alumni base. Larry is all of that.”

Hamilton said that Smith’s academic credentials were important as well.

That masters degree was more important than anything,” Hamilton said. “We have to graduate students as well. His academic accomplishments, experience in the NBA and having won championships are all great. He’s the total package.”