By Zach D'Amico
Dr. Terrance Smith is a familiar face at Saint Vincent and he’s now the face of the men’s basketball program at the college.
On April 5, Smith was named the team’s head coach nearly a month after Don Paul “DP” Harris left for Saint Thomas University in Miami Garden’s, Fla. He became the program’s first new head coach in 16 years. Smith earned a BA in Management from Saint Vincent while serving as a member of the men’s basketball team from 1997-2001, earning All-American honors twice.
He commented on what it means to now coach the team he once played for.
"It means everything to me. This is where I played. There was never a point throughout my time here when I thought it was a possibility. So to me when the opportunity came, it was a dream come true. I’ve been part of the program for the past five years and I can tell you that I’ve never been more proud than I am right now as far as my relationship to Satin Vincent, the program and the school as a whole,” said Smith, who also serves as an assistant professor in the McKenna School of Business at Saint Vincent College.
Smith has been part of the coaching staff for the past five seasons, so he’s familiar with the program and the expectations placed on the men’s basketball team at Saint Vincent. Right now, his focus is on keeping the current team together.
“(My first goal) is to keep the team together and then recruit. Those are were the top two things that I wanted to get done initially. Because any time you have a change like that, especially with somebody like DP who has been here for so long, it’s a big change. My goal was just to provide some reassurance to the players,” Smith said.
The biggest challenge that Smith currently faces is providing reassurance to his players after Harris’ departure.
“We didn’t want people picking up and transferring. We didn’t want people thinking like life was over, so to speak. So that was one of my first things that I wanted to do was provide that reassurance to the players and to try and keep the recruits that we had on campus all throughout last season and keep their interest in Saint Vincent,” he added.
So far, Smith did not mention to The Review that any players are planning on transferring. However, he said that it remains a challenge maintaining current players while continuing recruiting efforts.
“There are couple of people who are considering their options. And considering what may be best for them. At the end of the day whatever decisions are made between now and the Fall, they are going to be respected. Either was we’re moving forward and we plan on winning games and being successful,” he said.
Since Smith has been on the coaching staff, the Bearcats captured two President’s Athletic Conference (PAC) championships and three PAC regular season titles. During his days wearing the green and gold for Saint Vincent, Smith helped the Bearcats to two National Association of Intercollege Athletics (NAIA) tournament appearances. So, needless to say, Smith is aware of the team’s past success.
“There’s always going to be a certain amount of pressure when you are the person in charge. In terms of living up to expectations, I plan on doing that and taking the program to the next level. That’s the type of person that I am. I am going to do everything I can to try to get this program to the next level. I want to sustain the level of success. There’s always going to be pressure with that but I at the same time I understand that I’m my own person so I’m going to go about it in my own way,” he said.
As newly-appointed head coach, Smith expects there to be a brand-new coaching staff to follow.
“There’s going to be a new coaching staff for sure. But I will be the one constant. I’m the one who has been here, so I think that’s important. I have a good idea of what I need in a coaching staff. There’s going to be some new faces but the expectations are going to be the same. At the end of the day, anybody who has been brought in to be a part of the staff, they are going to have the same expectation,” he said.
Saint Vincent concluded the 2018-19 season with a 22-5 overall record and 14-2 in conference play. The Bearcats fell to Chatham University, 54-51, in the semifinals of the PAC playoffs. The team returns David Stephen and Shemar Bennett, who averaged 15.4 and 11.9 points per game, respectively. Smith considers the team to have an optimistic attitude heading into the 2019-20 season.
“I think (the attitude) is optimistic. It was emotional initially (when Harris left). It’s one of those things that you have to work through. The important thing is for everybody to stick together and be about the team. If we can do that and keep the focus on the team…we’ll be fine,” he said.