Katrina Clarke | March 10, 2015 | Toronto Star
He’s the star basketball coach who led Carleton to multiple national championships — but Dave Smart hates everything that comes with winning.
Smart became the Carleton Ravens’ head coach back in 1999. He’s since led his team to 10 national titles in 12 years — including five straight starting in 2003 — and has been Canadian Interuniversity Sport coach of the year seven times.
“I hate the media attention . . . I hate that more people may know who I am,” Smart told the Star Tuesday by phone from a bus en route to Toronto. “If we could win with no one knowing who I was and no one talking to me after, it would be perfect.”
For the coach, whose team is seeded No. 1 heading into the CIS men’s basketball championship at Ryerson University, which starts Thursday, it’s not the allure of another shiny trophy that keeps him dedicated and passionate — it’s his players.
It’s the same reason why he has turned down significant offers from schools in the United States, he says.
“No matter how much money I got offered, I’d still have to go to the team room and tell 12 athletes that I recruited, who have worked so hard for me . . . I’d have to tell them I’m leaving,” said Smart. “I’m not sure I’m capable of doing that.”
Other winning coaches have made the move, including Smart’s friend Scott Morrison. The former Lakehead University basketball coach left the school in 2013 and later secured the head coaching job with the Maine Red Claws. Smart, 49, says his circumstances are different. He’s settled in Ottawa with his wife and two kids, 3-year-old Gabriel and 5-year-old Theo.
While he once told a reporter he’d only accept a U.S. job for a salary of $500,000 — which he now laughs off as a joke — his hard bargaining hasn’t silenced the talk. Smart tells inquisitive NCAA schools “the same thing I’m telling you,” he told the Star.
Smart did accept a coaching offer from an NCAA school once, but then changed his mind after realizing he couldn’t break the bad news to his players, he said.
“Dave’s an unbelievable basketball coach and he holds us to higher standards every day. Not just in terms of basketball but in terms of how you act as a person,” said player Victor Raso, 24. “The lessons are beyond basketball.”
In the near future, Smart would like to see Canadian schools make some changes. Full athletic scholarships might keep talented players at home while still offering a good education and basketball training, he said, adding he’d never begrudge the likes of Toronto’s Andrew Wiggins for leaving for better NBA exposure.
As for how he expects the upcoming tournament to go, Smart’s answer is characteristically honest.
“I just want to play well,” he said. “I think we can play well and lose.”