Holston’s almost-a-legend has died

Marvin WestInside 640, Northeast Knox, Obits, westwords

Carroll Smith, long-ago basketball coach at Holston High School, was almost a legend.


He said the best game he ever coached was against Alcoa in the 1967 state championship finals. Holston was three points ahead with a few seconds remaining. Holston lost, 46-45.

Despite the defeat, Jimmy England was tournament MVP.

There came a time when the coach moved on to Oak Ridge High and then to Roane State. Holston High lost for the final time in 1991. It became a middle school. Old grads maintain a firm grip on memories – including Carroll Hayden Smith.

The old coach, 86, died June 23 at his home. Visitation will be held at 5 p.m. June 30 at Berry Lynnhurst Funeral Home, 2300 West Adair Drive. Services are planned for 7 p.m. Burial will be 9:30 a.m. July 1 at the Veterans’ Cemetery.

Carroll and Charlotte Smith

Survivors include his wife, Charlotte Teague Smith; his children, Robin Sells and Rick Smith, and stepsons Justin, Jason and Preston Teague.

Larry King played at Holston.

“Coach was a wonderful teacher and a wonderful man, respected by all who knew him. Only a few people used his first name. Those of us who played for him always called him Coach. It was still that way at the 50th reunion of the 1967 team.

“I told him, ‘You don’t realize how much you affected our lives.’ I kissed him on the forehead. I loved that man.”

King played four years at King College. He said, the entire time, he used what Coach Smith had taught him.

Gary England remembers the Holston battles with Fulton High and Austin-East, hard-fought games.

“Coach was a strong competitor. We had the confidence that he was with us every step of the way.”

Carrol Smith was still with Gary England when he went to Auburn on a basketball scholarship.

“We were warming up for a freshman game. Nobody came to Auburn freshman games. But I spotted three people in the stands. I took a closer look. There were my father, my former principal at Alice Bell School, Dick Waters, and Coach Smith.

“They had driven down from Knoxville to see me play in a freshman game.”

Gary remembers Tiger teammates teasing him about having his own cheering section.

“What they were really saying was they wished somebody cared that much about them.”

The Rev. John Justice, Holston point guard, 1964, said: “Coach was a highly positive influence on my life. He was a taskmaster but he was reasonable. He was a strict disciplinarian who taught persistence and hard work. He taught us to be gracious winners and gracious losers but he was a great competitor.

“He taught defense. He was a defensive strategist. His philosophy was that if we held the opponent scoreless and scored one goal, we won, 2-0.

“There was a steep hill behind the school. Before the season, he used it to measure desire. We called it want-to. Each candidate for the team had to run up and down that bank 25 times. Some didn’t make it without losing their lunch.”

John Justice didn’t play much on the freshman team. He asked Coach what he could do to improve. Smith gave him a key to the gym for the summer before his sophomore season.

“He knew exactly what I needed and what he did made all the difference in the world.”

David Greene played for Coach Smith. His older brother, Ross, was a Warrior before him.

“I would go over after their practice and David and I would play 2-on-2 against Coach Smith and Bill Higdon. Coach was a heck of a tough competitor who didn’t like it one bit that we won more than we lost.”

Greene remembers what the Coach called the defensive Cardinal sin, “giving up the baseline.”

John Van Mol remembers the smiles.

“When we were going through extra Christmas holiday practices for conditioning before district play, Coach said, ‘Today, boys, I’m going to run you until I get tired, and I’m not running.’”

Coach Smith was a thin man.

“We called him Coach Hungry. When he introduced the shuffle offense, it became the Hungry Shuffle. Great fun, so many years ago.”

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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