Thursday, April 30, 2015


Dave Smart- Carleton’s Remarkable Coach



I have spent the last few years south of the border during the basketball season called “March Madness”. It is a time when many Americans start to wave the flag of their favourite college basketball team. It is not necessary for a fan to attend the school they support. In fact, there are many Kentucky fans, for example, who cheer wildly for the team, never having set foot on the campus. Ditto for Duke, Michigan, and the rest of them.



But it is a fine time for all. Even President Obama’s selections in the Final 64 Pool are carefully scrutinized. Several of the coaches in this year’s tournament have had great success in the past, but none greater than John Wooden, who coached at UCLA. Wooden led the Bruins to ten NCAA Championships, a number that will likely never be reached by any other coach. In fact, several talking heads stated that no professional or college coach will reach that number.



I disagree. This year, the Carleton Ravens won their 11th National title, with Coach Dave Smart at the helm. Now, of course, this happened in Canada; therefore, it was disregarded by the American media. Nonetheless, it is a national title, and the American basketball public is well aware that there are some pretty good players in this country.



Smart played university ball at Queen’s, and was a perennial all star. He played from 1991 to 1994, and set the all time school record for highest points per game career average at 26.6. In 1992-1993, he became the only Queen’s player ever to lead Canada in scoring average, at 29.4 points per game.



Following his college career, Smart began coaching. One of the teams he coached was called the Guardsmen, out of Napanee. It was referred to as a “Club” team, and played throughout Ontario and Northern New York State during the season. His brother Rob also coached with the organization. Two of Rob’s children, Rob and Mike, were outstanding players with the Guardsmen, and went on to have stellar careers at Carleton, with their uncle at the helm. Prince Edward Collegiate graduates Matt and Pat Ross also played at Carleton.



Smart began coaching in 1997 at Carleton, as an assistant under head coach Paul Armstrong. He assumed the head coach title in 1999. The victory this year was against the University of Ottawa Gee Gees, The final score was 93-46, and was never in doubt.



I recently spoke with Dave about his remarkable basketball career, on the floor and on the bench. “Every championship is different,” he told me. “They are not the same because the kids are different.” Most college players in Canada usually can play for four years. On the State side, if a player is outstanding, he may bolt for the NBA after one college season. The point is, coaches need to plan several years down the road to remain competitive. Obviously, Smart has been doing a good job in this regard.



He experienced another fine season this past year, but told me that he was having difficulty motivating his players for the final games. An article appeared in the Toronto Star the day before the final against the Gee Gees. It was an interview with the coach of the Ottawa team, essentially criticizing Smart’s team, and his coaching style.



To paraphrase: “Our ultimate goal is that, after the season, our guys will still want to play basketball. We would like our players to have a personality on the court.” In other words, he ripped Smart for his style. Smart’s players responded to the criticism. “I have never seen a situation where the team was so motivated, where one of our players was so dominant,” Smart told me.



Smart also benefited from the fact that his sister sent her boys to play at Carleton: the Doornekamp lads from Napanee. They stood almost seven feet tall, and had been handling basketballs in their cribs! His nephew Robbie is now his assistant at Carleton.



I intend to share his success with my American neighbours in the fall.


April 27, 2015 

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