Getting to know Grant Smith
By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector
Monday, July 1, 2019
BETHEL — Grant Smith became the newest boys’ basketball coach in Pitt County last week when he was announced as the next leader of the North Pitt program.
The Panthers were looking for a rebuild after missing out on the playoffs in the 2018-19 season, and athletic director Matt Goddard believes he has found the man who will once again lead NP to the postseason.
Before taking the job with the Panthers, Smith spent four seasons at West Montgomery High School in Mt. Gilead. His 2018 squad made the 1-A state playoffs but fell in the first round. He is finalizing his nearly three-hour move to Pitt County, where he also will work off-campus at Physicians East in Greenville.
“Actually (the move) wasn’t as hard as you would think,” Smith said during his introductory news conference. “A couple of things stuck out. Students who were not involved in the process actually welcomed me. They didn’t know who I was, so that was attractive to me. Principal (Maurice) Harris and his commitment to creating a culture of learning was also impressive. I love basketball, that’s my passion, but it is also a tool to develop young guys into young men.”
Smith joked when asked what style of play he would bring to Bethel, saying he didn’t want to release his entire plan, but stated he simply wanted to focus on defense in a time where basketball has changed its primary focus to increased scoring and shooting.
“(Focusing on defense) requires a culture change,” he said. “To be honest, if you want to influence and change behavior you have to influence the way the guys think about that behavior, in this case playing defense or the lack of defense. So my focus is primarily on the defensive side because defense leads to offense, especially with pressure. I don’t want to give up too much of my strategy, but I’m going to be honest, we’re going to apply pressure all over the court in a variety of ways.”
Smith said the key to applying his hard-nosed style of defense is making players confident in their abilities, repeating the words consistency and persistence.
Smith acknowledged he had heard of the successes of top-level teams in Pitt County, including reigning 4-A state champion South Central and 2-A state champ Farmville Central, which is an Eastern Plains Conference rival of the Panthers. He said he has a plan for how to draw spectators to Bethel to watch the Panthers over other area teams.
“My first objective is to get the guys to buy in,” Smith said. “Fans will come, they will appreciate the success we will have on the court. They will come out to watch because it’s new. Everyone will give us a shot, they want to see what’s going on, but my goal, aside from that, is to make sure my guys are prepared for the opponent. When that happens, (fans) will have a show to see.”
Smith enjoys spending his free time watching the NBA, and while he does not take sets and skills used by the professionals to the high school ranks, he does see similarities.
“I see a lot of the strategies in terms of the high school level,” Smith said. “If you meet a team that has plenty of offensive threats, then you have to make someone else beat you. There are different ways you can do that. I’m a student of the game of basketball. Having said that, our goal is really to set the tone, and we are going to do that with our defense.”
With 14 years of experience under his belt, Smith has plenty of past memories and lessons he can use to help push North Pitt back into the conversation as one of Pitt County’s top teams.
“One of the things you have to acknowledge is you continue to learn how young people change, and that’s the biggest thing,” Smith said. “My philosophy is pretty simple and it doesn’t change. I build the relationships and then I educate, which means on and off the court, and then you have to empower them. It’s not enough to just teach them, you have to show them how to apply that knowledge to different situations. That way you’re not chasing other teams around. You worry about what you do.”
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.