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Coaches View: Christy Smith

Christy Smith is in her first season as an assistant coach under Sharon Versyp on the women's basketball team.
Each week in GBI EXPRESS - Gold & Black Illustrated's digital magazine that publishes on Mondays during the basketball season - we sit down with an assistant coach. Here's a portion of the interview with Smith.
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GBI: Versyp coached you in high school at Benton Central. What kind of coach was she?
Smith: "Growing up 15 minutes from here, I knew of her, having been Miss Basketball and playing at Purdue. Then she coached with Jan (Conner) when I was in junior high, so I'd seen her around Benton Central. So then when she left Purdue and went and coached at Lawrence North, we played against her my junior year. I'd always known of her and seen her around. Before my senior year when they opened the interview up for hiring a new coach, and we heard she was interviewing, I was so excited. You have expectations of what you think somebody is going to be like but you really don't know. When she came in on the interview, I was completely blown away and knew at that moment that I wanted to play for her. I wanted her to come in. When she did, she just completely changed me as a player. She taught me stuff I didn't know.
"Offensively, I think I went from like 10 points a game my junior year to like 22 points my senior year, which is enormous. Usually over a course of a career that happen - not over the course of a summer. She made an enormous impact in my career as a player and now as a coach. She's still making a huge impact on my life."
GBI: So many coaches and players talk about getting to a Final Four. You played in one your senior year at Arkansas. What was it like?
Smith: "When I grew up in Indiana, we didn't have class basketball. So our dream as a high school kid was always to get to the final four, to be one of the top four teams at state. Well, that never happened. So you go to college and you get to start all over again with the dream of going to the Final Four. From my freshman year, we would always say, 'We're going to the Final Four.' You don't get there, you don't get there. You get one last chance as a senior, and we didn't even know we were going to get into the NCAA Tournament. It comes down to Selection Sunday, and we're right in the middle of the SEC, so we have no idea if they were going to take six, seven teams. It comes to the last bracket, and we pop up and we're going out to Stanford, and Stanford was a No. 1 seed. But we didn't care. We were in. Then just things fell in place, and we won one game at a time, and it comes down to we're playing Duke, they're up one, we're up one, back and forth.
"To get to the Final Four was definitely a dream come true and incredible, but once we got there, we obviously wanted to win. Tennessee, they labeled that team as one of the best women's basketball teams to ever play, so it was like, 'Why did it have to be then?'"
GBI: You won a gold medal for Team USA in the World University Games. Where was it played?
Smith: "It was in Italy."
GBI: You've had a horrible life.
Smith: "I know (laughs). There was a period of like one year there, where it was in August that we went to Sicily and played in Palermo right on the island and we won a gold medal. The team was awesome. Coach (Jim) Foster from Ohio State was our coach. Then I went to the Final Four in April and then got drafted that spring and was in the WNBA."
GBI: So your bachelor's was in exercise science and your master's was in biomechanics. Did you want to be a coach?
Smith: "Initially, I was going to go into strength and conditioning. When I was working on my master's, I was working as a graduate assistant strength coach at Arkansas."
GBI: Did you go into high school coaching after that?
Smith: "When I finished my master's degree, I went and worked at a job in Chicago at a place called Sports Med and what we did was take athletes and trained them in sports specific skills, speed and agility. We probably had about 150 athletes that were coming through the program in all different sports, soccer, football, baseball, basketball. I did that for a couple years and then moved to Texas and my husband at the time was a football coach, so I did some training on the side. But that's when I had my daughter, and I was pregnant with my son so I was trying to juggle some things. Then I started coaching down there as an assistant on the side. Whitney Hand, who plays at Oklahoma now, her dad was the head coach, so I was his assistant with his daughters. So that's when I started coaching. When we moved up here, I coached at Lafayette Jeff as an assistant then Harrison and then (in college at) Valparaiso."
GBI: You're the newbie on the staff. How has the transition been?
Smith: "With the staff with Terry (Kix), Martin (Clapp), Nadine (Morgan) and Coach Versyp, they're just really good people. From Day 1, they all came up to me and gave me a hug and were like, 'So excited you're here.' They have made it so much easier for me to feel at home and help me along when they see the blank look or the confusion on my face. They're quick to say, 'Come here, this is what we're doing.'"
GBI: You work with the guards …
Gary: "I work with the guards when they're good. When they're bad, then it's Nadine. (laughs)"
GBI: What do you think of the young group you have with KK Houser, Courtney Moses and Dee Dee Williams?
Gary: "I think it's a very diverse group of kids. They all bring something different. When you have two or three of them on the court, each time you sub somebody, you either have a defensive group or a good shooting group. That's what you need on a team. You don't want to have a team full of shooters and no defensive players. They're good kids, and they get after it and they work hard and they're fun to work with it."
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