|Smith during his BRHS days|
Smith had been recovering from surgery over the past few weeks at his home in Memphis, and his death was reported as unexpected on Facebook.
Smith coached at Ripple over two different stints and led the Rockets to the 1980 Boys Basketball State Championship. Until last year, the '80 Rockets remained the last IPS-based team to win a State Championship up until Arsenal Tech won last year's tournament.
Besides his longtime position as a teacher and coach in IPS, Smith also spent a term as Center Township Trustee serving from 1987-1991. He returned to Ripple in 1994 and coached for nine more seasons. Recently, he had served on the staff of the New York Knicks as an adviser to former coach Mike Woodson. Woodson, an IU basketball legend, played for Smith at Ripple.
While his foray into politics was brief, I'll remember "Smitty" as my dad and many of his friends knew him as a gregarious and larger than life figure. His players always talked about how he commanded respect, and he was known to have a fiery disposition on the sidelines. Away from the court, players often recounted the softer side of the big and intimidating-looking Smith. Kyle Neddenreip of the Indianapolis Star captures those memories in this piece.
My father actually coached against Smitty in the City Championship middle school game one time and both teams were undefeated. My dad's team actually beat Smitty's team, and he called my dad "Coach" for years after that even when my father was an administrator. My dad was there at Ripple when Smith's team won that State Championship, and he appears in the pictures.
One thing is clear. Bill Smith was larger than life, and his death leaves a huge hole. Hopefully, the folks at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame will someday recognize him for his accomplishments and contributions to Indiana High School Basketball. I'll just always remember Smitty as a great person and someone who touched a lot of lives along the way. Coach Smith is survived by his wife and family and extended family of the players in whose lives he made a difference.
Rest easy, coach. Bill Smith was 72 years old.