Wimbish-North welcomes Smith's expertise to bench
Region IV-4A Basketball Tournament
Friday, 6 p.m., Victoria East (38-2) vs. San Antonio Brennan (36-0) . 8 p.m., Floresville (29-5) vs. Cedar Park Vista Ridge (33-2)
Saturday, 2 p.m., Championship
Mike Smith has been known to show his emotions during a coaching career that has spanned five decades.
But Victoria East coach Yulonda Wimbish-North knows exactly what to do when her assistant starts getting too excited.
"I laugh sometimes because sometimes I have to get him to calm down," she said. "I'll tell him, 'OK your wife's not here, but I'm going to tell on you for kicking that chair. So you better calm down.'"
Smith has kicked a chair or two, but that doesn't bother Wimbish-North, who has welcomed his assistance during the Titans' run to the Class 4A regional basketball tournament.
"I'm calmer than him," Wimbish-North said. "I think you've got to have a combination of both. So when I'm calm, there's some times when the kids need that. Just because we're so different, they've got what they need at that particular time."
Smith coached the boys basketball team at Victoria High for 26 years, compiling a 643-228 record and leading the Stingarees to two state tournament appearances.
He stepped down after the 1997-98 season and became the girls golf coach at Victoria High, Memorial and East.
Smith got back into coaching basketball after receiving approval from wife, Ad, who is in the stands for most games, to accept an offer from athletic director Ralph Escalona to become Wimbish-North's assistant last season during the playoffs.
Smith, 65, is back at it this season.
"I knew Yulonda well and because of her and the type of person she is I said I'd go ahead and help her out," Smith said. "I was pleasantly surprised to find out her philosophy was almost identical to mine as far as the defensive part of the game."
Smith was coaching the Victoria High boys when Wimbish-North was playing for Jan Lahodny at Victoria High.
He watched her lead the Stingarettes to two state tournament appearances and one state championship before going on to win an NCAA title at the University of Texas.
"I think the first time I saw her it was an open gym," Smith said. "She was the only girl and the guys chose and she was the last one picked. Two days later, I came back and she was the first one picked."
Smith acknowledges becoming an assistant after being a head coach for so long was a challenge, but credits Wimbish-North for easing the transition.
"We really complement each other," he said. "She handles most of the discipline with the girls, which is something I really don't want to do. We share ideas and we usually make decisions together and that makes me feel like I'm contributing."
Wimbish-North welcomes Smith's input. She discusses substitution patterns with Smith, and also has him draw up inbound plays under the basket.
"We have a working relationship where we trust each other so we work together on that," Wimbish-North said. "I just try to use his knowledge and that is a whole lot. He'll ask me and I listen to it. For the most part, it makes sense so I'll say, 'OK let's go ahead and do it.'"
The East players have responded to Smith, who took over the team for a few days earlier this season after Wimbish-North's father died.
"It's a good combo," said sophomore post Kendall Carter, whose father, Brent, played for Smith at Victoria High. "They both know the game really well and they both know exactly what to tell us at the right time. Coach Smith shows that he's upset and coach North tells us later on."
The Titans' success under Wimbish-North and Smith is no surprise to Lahodny.
"It kind of reminds me of the way (assistant) Debbie Garner and I were on the floor," Lahodny said. "Mike is the worrier and Yulonda has that fire. The combination works great and you can win a lot of games."
Smith gives Wimbish-North credit for leading East to its second regional tournament appearance in the program's second year.
The Titans have set a Victoria school district record for wins in a season with 38, surpassing the 37 wins by Smith's 1975-76 Victoria High team that advanced to the state semifinals.
"She's really just a little Lahodny," Smith said. "She taken all the good qualities of Lahodny and applied them to her coaching."
Smith had a good working relationship with Lahodny when they were at Victoria High, and he feels the same about his relationship with Wimbish-North.
"I'll do it as long as I enjoy and I'm enjoying it right now," Smith said. "Of course, when you're 38-2, it's pretty easy to enjoy."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.