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PHS Coach Justin Smith Steps Down

PHS Coach Justin Smith Steps Down
June 03
14:11 2021

Page Coach Justin Smith Steps Down

Coach Smith with the winning net March 2021

By Steven Law

After leading the Sand Devils boys’ basketball team to its first-ever state championship, Justin Smith climbed the ladder and cut the net from the hoop, then turned to his team, watching from below, and held the net victoriously over his head, like Perseus displaying the severed head of Medusa.

It was the third time in Smith’s career he’s cut down the state championship net.

After serving as head coach for Page High School’s varsity boys basketball team, Justin Smith has stepped down after serving in that position for the last two seasons.

During the on-again, off-again, on-again 20-21 season, Coach Smith’s guided his team to a state championship title, defeating the Snowflake Lobos 64 to 51 in the title game.  Along with the state title, Coach Smith was named North Central Region Coach of the Year, and became one of only two Arizona coaches to win state championships as both a boys and girls varsity head coach.

This year was Coach Smith’s second season as the boys basketball head coach. Last year his team made a strong run for the title, but was eliminated in the state semi-finals.

Coach Smith

There were three generations of Smiths on the Sand Devils’ court this year. Justin’s son Robert was the team’s point guard, who set the tempo for the Sand Devils’ offense, and defensively was always given the task of guarding their opponent’s strongest offensive player. Robert Smith added eleven points in the championship game, and was named 3A Central Defensive Player of the Year.

Justin’s father, Steve Smith, served as one of the team’s assistant coaches this year.

Justin Smith served as the girls varsity head coach from 2009 to 2016, during which time he led his team to two state titles, one in 2012, one in 2015. His teams always advanced to the state quarter finals, if not further.

Smith posted a 43-6 win-loss record during his two years as boys basketball head coach, and a 174-40 win-loss record during his time as girls basketball head coach.

Smith began his coaching career in Page in 1998, as the 7th grade boys basketball coach. He’s also coached the freshmen team, and JV girls team.

Smith remembers the mentoring program was much stronger when he began his career. “I learned from some of the best,” he said. “I was mentored by some of the best: Mike Beall, Jim Adkins, Aaron Anderson, Jack Keisling and Jim Walker. Mike Beall was the one who really groomed me.”

Having years to watch and study the different coaching styles as he was coming up was an immeasurable education in coaching, Smith said.

Smith is stepping down as head coach to spend more time with his family. Some of that time will be spent traveling to watch his son Robert play basketball. Robert Smith just signed to play basketball with SAGU American Indian College, in Phoenix. But Smith says he’s strongly considering mentoring Page High School’s incoming coaches.

“Today’s coaching environment is much different than when I was a young coach,” Smith said. “Today, beginning coaches very often just get thrown to the wolves and they have to figure it out for themselves. I was an assistant coach for eleven years with, multiple programs, under multiple coaches and I learned a lot from that. I’d like to help bring that mentoring culture back.”

Smith will be missed on the court and in the classroom, said Ernie Rivers, PUSD’s athletic director.

“We’re grateful for all the contributions Justin has made to all the programs he’s been involved in,” said Rivers.  “He’s going to be missed, but his influence will still be felt for many years to come.”

Smith has accepted a position with the Tuba City Unified School District, where he will teach Special Education.

 

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Summary: Page Coach Justin Smith Steps Down

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