Home Sports Local Sports More than a coach — a dad

More than a coach — a dad

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Former Gateway Christian coach Dan Smith filming his daughter, Daci Smith at the Tournament of Champions Friday. Smith stepped away from coaching this season to be a dad. (J.T. Keith Photo)

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There’s nothing easy in this life about the end and saying goodbye. It was hard to walk away from something you love with so much passion and care so deeply about. Dan Smith led Gateway Christian to their winningest basketball seasons in the school’s history. Dan did it right, with the right heart and spirit.

Dan might be a chiropractor by trade, but his purpose in this life is affecting kids for good, and he does it through a round ball that one dribbles and puts through the hoop. Maybe that’s why Dan cries so easily because he has a big heart and wants everyone he comes into contact with to do well and succeed in life.

Dan wants every kid to be the next LeBron James. He had a hand in developing Joe Waide, Wes Tipton, Wyatt Arlet and Jayden Stephens. Maybe that’s why he was crying so hard in the hallway of Bernalillo High School after his team lost in the playoffs to Quemado, 59-45.

“He did a great job coaching at Gateway Christian,” athletic director Justin Stephens said upon Dan Smith’s resignation. “He gave his team a chance to win and every opportunity to be successful. I’m pleased with him as a coach.”

Dan made a decision before the season started last year — that would be his last season on the bench. Dan walked away from his dream with one purpose in mind: To be the best husband and father to Ashton Smith and Daci Smith.

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One look at him going around to all of the local games, and to pro games lets those closest to him know that his basketball fix has not left him, nor may never leave him.

Dan can adjust bones and tinker with what ails patients in his practice, but it’s hard to fix the heart. That requires a heart specialist. What he misses most of all is sitting on the sidelines making game-time decisions and adjustments. It’s hard to beat the one opponent no one sees and that’s the heart to coach and help kids get better.

“It was tough to tell the boys goodbye,” Dan said after their playoff loss. “Those guys battled for me. It’s never a good time to leave because there are always the kids you were working with.”

Dan Smith traded in his whistle this past summer to follow his children around and be a major part of their lives. Dan knows he cannot get these high school years back. With an adult son, Bryson, living in Lubbock, Texas, he knows the impact he can make on his two girls is tremendous these next four years.

Dan still coaches in his Roswell Basketball Academy and helps players get better, but for a basketball junkie — his team has gone from Gateway Christian to his daughter playing at Goddard. If you watch him at games, he’s in the stands with a camera filming the games in order to help Daci get better.

Former Gateway Christian basketball coach Dan Smith, right, and his daughter, Goddard freshman basketball player Daci Smith, at the City of Champions Tournament. (Submitted Photo)

He notices Daci Smith, jumps the passing lane and steals a couple of passes then tosses the ball to her teammates for an easy two baskets. He smiles as a proud father, thinking of some things they will have to work on later.

Daci Smith seems to think the game is a move ahead. Daci Smith is one of the two dynamic freshmen which coach Jared Neighbors is counting on to help play the kind of uptempo basketball he has always wanted to play at Goddard.

Neighbors has the stew brewing for something special come playoff basketball. The only thing Neighbors and Dan cannot give this young team is the experience. No matter how much conditioning and game film the team watches, the only way for them to get better and get to where they want to go in March is to play through — play through the mistakes, the physical fatigue and the dog days of December and play until the calendar changes.

It’s called the process, and the mistakes these young Lady Rockets are making now in December, they will have outplayed them come March. The things they’re doing as freshmen, they won’t do as sophomores or juniors. With nine players on the team, it’s going to be all in.

One night it might be Kelsey Morley with a big rebound, or her sister Lana Morley with a big block shot to preserve a win. It might take the continuing improvement in her offensive game by Allyah Valdez as she scores on the inside during a needed basket later in the year.

Neighbors has the makings of the team he has always wanted. He has a lockdown defender, Tanya Ueland, who comes into the games ready to get after her opponent and the ball. In three games, she has come up with big steals, and if she starts hitting her jumper to give the Lady Rockets another scorer to go along with the electric Ericca Cannon, and the scorer Alexis Sandavol, this team has the makings of being in Albuquerque.

Senior Abby Garcia hit for eight points against rival Roswell. Every year, coach Neighbors has had a glue person to do the things that don’t get written about in the newspaper but wins games for the team. This year, it seems that Garcia can do that, and still stroke it from the outside with her left-handed jumper. The perfect complement to this team is Ambrosia Teasyatwho who does some of this and that and is always hustling.

Smith lamented on his desire to win a Blue Trophy as a coach but doesn’t feel unfulfilled it didn’t happen — yet. Dan doesn’t measure his coaching success by wins and losses or trophies. Dan receives his value in helping athletes learn the game. He takes the most satisfaction in being able to dribble, when before they came to him some of the players who could barely bounce the ball.

For now, Dan is completely happy to be Daci Smith’s dad and watch her grow as a basketball player and young lady. For now, Smith doesn’t answer to coach anymore, but to the best title of all, Dad.

“I hope I was able to influence young men’s lives,” Dan said.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.