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Lady Sand Devils’ Coach Justin Smith Resigns

Lady Sand Devils’ Coach Justin Smith Resigns
March 02
10:19 2016

After last week’s shocking exit in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, the Page Sand Devils girls’ basketball team experienced yet another shocking loss, this time losing their head coach. After seven years at the helm, Justin Smith told his team Monday that he was stepping down as head coach of the Sand Devils.

Coach Smith and the 2015 State Champion Sand Devils

Coach Smith and the 2015 State Champion Sand Devils

Smith, a 1995 Page High graduate, has spent the majority of his adult life coaching basketball in some capacity. Before his seven years spent leading the girls program, Smith was an assistant for eleven years, coaching boys and girls in the junior high, freshman, and JV levels. He knew early on in his life that coaching was what he wanted to do,

“I’ve always been a goal oriented person and once I got to that level I wanted to be a varsity head coach. I knew that at a young age. I didn’t think I had what it took. I didn’t think I had what it took when I took the (Page) job to be honest, I was scared to death.”

Smith said he didn’t realize how much he’d enjoy coaching girls, “I enjoyed coaching girls. I didn’t ever think I would. I enjoy the relationships that you build with them more so than sometimes you’re able to build with middle school or high school boys.”

Coach Smith may have been scared to death but it didn’t show in the way his teams played. Over the seven year span, his teams went 175-40 overall for a .897 winning percentage and a pair of state titles.

The first title in 2012 will be one of the highlights of his coaching career Smith said, “When you take over a good program you always want to make it better, at least make sure you do what your predecessors have done. Getting that camel off my back was an emotion win for sure.”

Three or four different things culminated in Smith’s decision to step down from the head coaching post. He wants to spend more time with his family, which includes Smith’s wife, two kids, dad, and brother, he also wants to continue his education and pursue his master’s degree in educational leadership. Smith, who is a special education teacher in the district, says the move also enables him to do something different within the schools that he may have had to pass up before because of the basketball commitments.

Perhaps the biggest reason for stepping aside was that Smith is tired, “I’m just wore out. It’s time for the program to have a fresh face and it’s time for me to find something else I’m passionate about.” Smith said.

Athletic Director Ryan Tkalcevic said Smith grades out well, not just for his on court contributions, but for his off the court conduct as well,

“He (Coach Smith) grades out well. We don’t base (grades) on winning and losing. We base on the coach setting examples and meeting the mission and vision of what we have, as well as, being a good mentor for their program. It’s all about what they’re doing for the program and what they’re building. Teaching these young student athletes not only to be an athlete but a student and that’s what’s very impressive about most of the coaches in the district, especially Justin, they take the student part very seriously and it’s a number one priority in their programs.”2 22 16 Coach Smith

Tkalcevic said the Smith will play a part in the new coach search and that it will be a long, drawn out process so that the best fit for the students and program can be found.

Smith figures there will not be any shortage of applicants for the job, ““I’m hoping there are people pounding on the door. It’s too good of a program to not have someone good there.”

The hope is to find the next head coach for the girls’ basketball team by May 1st so that he or she can be ready for summer ball.

Even though Justin Smith may be done as the basketball coach for the Lady Sand Devils, he is not done with Page,

“I’m not leaving Page, Arizona, this is my home.” Smith stated.

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