Gateway Christian boys basketball coach, Daniel Smith, is a gentleman. A man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Dan is a man who cries when he’s talking about his faith, family or his basketball team. By vocation, he applies his trade to fixing backs and bones. Smith is a respected chiropractor, who happens to love coaching kids.
Coming into this year, he knew this was his last season on the bench at Gateway Christian. Dan wanted the chance to hoist the Blue Trophy and felt he had the team to do it, along with a special group of seniors. With sharpshooting Joe Waide, Wes Tipton, Wyatt Arlet and Jaydon Stephens to name a few, Smith believed this would be his last ride.
Smith could fix a lot of things, but the one thing he couldn’t fix was time. See, Dan has two growing daughters, Ashton, a junior at Roswell, and, Daci, a freshman at Goddard, that need him more than he needs to pursue the Blue Trophy. These formative years in his daughter’s lives he can never get back. Dan knew there is no cure to stop or suspend time.
Dan knew that he was going to be there for his daughter’s high school years, and share in the ups and downs of sports, academics and life. Dan wants to be a father more than he wants to coach because he knows his legacy and future generations of Smiths that will carry on his name.
“I missed some of Daci’s games last year,” Dan said. “Through a lot of thoughtful prayer, I felt like I couldn’t miss these times because they’re fleeting.”
When Stephens fouled out with four minutes left to play in the game to defending state champions, Quemado, he hugged Stephens as if it was the last time. It was because as the clock wound down and the Warriors’ season came to an end, with a 59-45 loss to the Eagles at Bernalillo High School, Dan was red-eyed from tears. Later before the team broke up, Dan would tell them goodbye.
“It was tough to tell the boys goodbye,” Dan said. “Those are the guys that battled for me. It’s never a good time to leave because there is always the kids you were working with.”
Dan knows there is never a good time to say goodbye to a team because there is always hope, potential and the what-ifs of a new class of seniors and a new team. The allure of winning it all is enticing — it’s not as exciting talking through as being there for his daughters to hear their ups-and-downs and just listening — with his daughters, Daci Smith, a freshman basketball player at Goddard, and daughter, Ashton Smith, a junior cheerleader and soccer player at Roswell. Dan knows how quickly time goes.
“He did a great job coaching at Gateway Christian,” Gateway Christian athletic director, Justin Stephens said. “He gave his team a chance to win and every opportunity to be successful. I’m pleased with him as a coach.”
Dan will still get his basketball fix because he has been running the Roswell Basketball Academy. The Academy runs from April to September at Gateway Christian High School. The school works on basketball skills with hopes that players can improve in their knowledge of the game. The camp is for fifth-graders through high school.
The Warriors basketball players benefited from Dan’s integrity, work ethic, not giving up and the way he treated his players and taught them the little things in life. Winning is important, but the core values that Gateway Christian is founded on will be missed because Dan instilled them in his players.
“I would have liked to have won a Blue Trophy,” Dan said, “but a trophy doesn’t measure the growth in young men. Some of them had no clue how to dribble a basketball or what position to be in. We were able to grow into a team that was able to advance things technically and tactically within the sport. I hope I was able to influence young men’s lives.”
Dan has not closed the door to returning to coaching again, but for now, he would like to be a dad and watch his daughters grow up. For the next couple of years, he is gladly trading in the title of coach for a more important title and that’s: Dad.
Gateway Christian has moved quickly filling the vacancy by hiring Jerryme Ledesma as the new boy’s basketball coach. In a surprise move, baseball coach, Rick Rapps’ last Blue Trophy will be his last. Rapp has resigned recently and will be replaced by Mickey Reeves.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.