Sewanee’s Bubba Smith Named New Head Basketball Coach at Lee University
(goleeflames.com) Ryan “Bubba” Smith has been selected to become the new head coach of the Lee men’s basketball program. The announcement was officially made during a press conference, formally introducing Smith and his family on Friday morning.
Smith, who has built the Sewanee (University of the South) program into one of the top teams in NCAA Division III basketball over the past eight years, will become only the ninth head coach in the history of Lee basketball.
“I am very happy to welcome coach Smith and his family to Lee,” said Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn. “He is clearly an outstanding young coach, and I’m confident he has the ‘right stuff’ to lead our men’s basketball program into the top echelon of NCAA D2 teams in our conference and nationally.
“I admire what he has done at Sewanee and earlier in his career, and I believe he and his wife Cortney will be a great fit for the Lee community.”
Lee Athletic Director Larry Carpenter pointed out that coach Smith has a proven track record of success and feels the new coach will make an immediate impact in the Gulf South Conference.
Carpenter added, “We received more than 250 resumes for the coaching position. There were several outstanding applicants and I can honestly say the (search) committee had a hard time narrowing the field.
“What impressed us about coach Smith was his understanding of Lee’s mission and his desire to get the campus and community engaged with Lee University basketball. You could sense his enthusiasm and eagerness to make Lee one of the top programs in DII. We feel he is the right man to lead our program and can’t wait for him to get started.”
Smith, a graduate of Furman University, enjoyed a four-year basketball career with the Paladins. He was a four-year letterman and team captain during his junior and senior seasons.
His first head coaching opportunity came at Hampden-Sydney (Va.), a nationally recognized program and a member of the ODAC (Old Dominican Athletic Conference). After serving as an assistant for three years, he was named head coach in 2003 and remained in that position for five years. He became the first rookie coach to direct a Division III program to a No. 1 ranking. Smith’s overall record at Hampden-Sydney was 93-45, including two ODAC Championships and two NCAA national tournament appearances.
The Hendersonville, Tenn. native moved closer to home in 2008 and took over a Sewanee basketball program that had struggled for years. Built on defense and rebounding, his 2011-12 squad was 11-2 at home, the school’s best home mark since 1998.
Smith has twice been named the SAA (Southern Athletic Association) coach of the year. The Tigers recorded five straight winning seasons and this past year went 20-8 and became only the fourth 20-win mark registered in Sewanee basketball history.
Said Smith after being selected over a large group of applicants: “First, I would like to thank Dr. Conn, Larry Carpenter, and the search committee for the opportunity they have given me to lead the Lee men’s basketball program. Our family is truly humbled for this opportunity.
“I have such a great respect for Lee University, what it values, and their commitment to excellence in developing young men and women on this campus. Dr. Conn’s vision and passion for competing in the Gulf South Conference and having a program that represents Lee’s mission was evident in my time with him this past week. I couldn’t be more excited about beginning this journey with our family and joining the Cleveland community.
Leaving a place like Sewanee is never easy,” Smith admitted. “The relationships you form with players, friends, alumni, and the community are what makes these types of places so special. Throughout the process we felt a peace about the opportunity at Lee, and after meeting the search committee and Dr. Conn, those feelings were confirmed.
The new Lee coach noted that he was looking forward to competing against some of the best coaches in the country in the Gulf South Conference. “This challenge is what every coach should desire as you grow in this profession, as a coach and as a person. I am excited about getting to know our team and beginning this process together.”
Smith will bring his wife, Cortney, and four children. Isaac (14), Mary Brittain (12), Emma (9) and Izzy (7) to Cleveland and the beginning of another new journey.