San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Barb Handed Walking Papers After Loss

ByMichael KlitzingAssistant Sports Editor

LAS VEGAS — Immediately after San Diego State’s 65-52 loss to NewMexico in the first round of Wednesday’s Mountain West ConferenceTournament, head coach Barb Smith was still unaware of her fate.

The loss brought to a close her fifth consecutive losing seasonand the two-year extension she signed in 2000. While her returnlooked like a long shot at best, Smith was still going to hold outfor official word.

“I really have no idea,” she said. “We’re still planning on goingon our recruiting trips and opening camps. But I’m sure we’ll findout in the next couple weeks or so.”

She would not have to wait that long.

Soon after Smith completed her postgame media responsibilities,SDSU Executive Director of Athletics Rick Bay pulled the coach asideand removed all doubt.

“I had the unfortunate responsibility after the game of talkingwith coach Smith and informing her that we would not renew hercontract at the end of this year,” Bay said minutes after thedismissal.

Smith was not immediately available for comment following hertermination, but did release a statement to the press.

“I was not surprised when Rick delivered the news to me after thegame,” she said. “He had to do what he had to do.”

The move brought to a close a disappointing, often stormy era inAztecs’ women’s basketball — an era that produced much success offthe court, but little on it.

“I told Barb she had a lot to be proud of,” he said. “Barbrepresented San Diego State in a classy manner and she ought to takegreat pride in the citizenship her team has exemplified.”

Bay said he was 90 percent sure before yesterday’s game that hewould not renew her contract. He left open the possibility of atournament miracle.

But when the miracle did not materialize, and when it came time tomake the decision, it all boiled down to wins and losses.

During Smith’s tenure on Montezuma Mesa, there were certainly moreof the latter. After taking over for Beth Burns following the WACChampionship-winning season of 1996-97, the former Colorado assistantcompiled a record of 49-86.

Postseason was no better. Since the MWC’s inception in 1999, herteams never advanced beyond the first round of the conferencetourney.

“That’s the harsh reality of this business,” Bay said. “At somepoint all three goals of a program have to converge: academics,citizenship and winning.

“We just didn’t do enough of the latter.”

The dearth of on-court success has certainly cost SDSU credibilitywith the local basketball community. Aztecs’ crowds that once packedPeterson Gym on a regular basis when the team was an NCAA Tournamentcontender have all but deserted the team in the last few years,leaving Cox Arena a virtual ghost town.

This year, SDSU averaged 577 fans per game at the 12,000-seatfacility.

For Bay, parting ways with Smith was undoubtedly more difficultconsidering she was his hand-picked successor for Burns, who boltedto Ohio State. Incidentally, Burns was handed her walking papers byOSU on Monday.

Bay’s next move will be to begin the search for Smith’sreplacement. He was not specific about any possible candidates, buthe did hint he would favor someone with previous head-coachingexperience — something Smith did not have when she was first hired.

In the end, Bay said inexperience as a head coach is what likelyhindered Smith the most. He expressed confidence that she will begiven another chance to lead a college program in the future.

“When people call me down the line about Barb Smith, I’ll have alot of good things to say about her,” he said. “I’m sure she’ll be acoach in the profession for a long time to come.”

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Barb Handed Walking Papers After Loss