Preps

Earl Smith Jr. retirement dinner draws nearly 300 friends, fans and admirers

2013-07-19T22:00:00Z 2013-07-25T17:25:05Z Earl Smith Jr. retirement dinner draws nearly 300 friends, fans and admirersAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
July 19, 2013 10:00 pm  • 

HOBART | Earl Smith Jr. always gave it his best effort during his 56 years in the Gary school system.

The city athletic director since 1998 with much of his life devoted to teaching, coaching and administration duties, the Roosevelt grad and lifelong resident is walking away with some regrets.

The old Northwestern Conference has only three schools left in West Side, Lew Wallace and Roosevelt.

Smith saw Wirt and Horace Mann close due to declining student enrollment.

He watched his city fight a negative image for what seems like forever; an image of violence, drugs, gangs and poverty.

He's seen the scheduling of suburban high schools become increasingly difficult, forcing Gary teams to seek competition outside the region.

He's watched an alarming coaching turnover while the numbers of students in minor sports dwindle.

But along the way, the Indiana Hall of Fame coach has influenced the lives of hundreds of young men and women, many of whom still keep in touch.

"To me, that's what it really was all about," Smith said. "I got involved not only with my own players, but across the city, I was instrumental in getting a lot of guys into school.

"That was part of my responsibility — to bridge that gap."

Smith coached in some capacity at Wallace, Froebel, Emerson, West Side and Tolleston high schools.

Friday night at Avalon Manor, a crowd of nearly 300 attended Smith's retirement dinner, including IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox and a veritable who's who of former coaching and athletic greats.

Two who easily stood out were former hoop stars 7-foot-1 Wallace Bryant and 6-11 Frank Smith, who played for Smith at Emerson.

Asked how Smith impacted his life, Bryant was quickly overcome with emotion.

"I wouldn't be who I am today. I wouldn't be nowhere close," said Bryant, who starred at the University of San Francisco and enjoyed a lengthy pro career, including a tour with the Bulls in 1983-84.

"He was a friend. He was a coach. He was a mentor. He was a father figure. He was pretty much everything I needed at the time. God put him in my life for a purpose," Bryant said of Earl Smith.

Bryant lives in Stockton, Calif., and is studying to be a minister. Frank Smith starred at the University of Arizona, now resides in Fort Worth, Texas, and works in sales.

"Coach Smith also taught me discipline and how to be a man. I became something to be reckoned with, in a basketball sense," Bryant said.

"At the time, I was having problems. My parents were separated and Coach Smith and his family stepped in and carried the ball, you could say."

Smith took an interest in all young kids, not just jocks.

"He's a people person, no matter what," Bryant said. "He sees potential in people. He's almost like an angel. He can work with you or around you to make you better -- if you allow it.

"He's heaven-sent to a lot of people."

Frank Smith said he remembers college recruiters coming to Emerson and Earl Smith "promoting" all the other region talent as well.

"When I heard about this dinner, no way was I not going to be here," Smith said. "He's done so much for so many people. He's a great guy, a special guy."

 

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best girls cross country team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News

Latest Local Offers