The close-knit community of Delbarton lost a beloved former educator and coach this past weekend when Bill Smith passed away.
Bill, 63, had battled some health problems over the last couple of years.
The first time I met Bill he was doing his student teaching at the old Williamson High School. I was a student at that time and it didn’t take me long to know that Smith bleed Bulldog blue and was a fan of Burch High School basketball.
He talked about the basketball team and his brother Mike, who at that time had played for John Maynard as a starting guard in the early 1970s. Bill beamed when he talked about his brother and his Bulldogs.
He was obviously a very nice person and an avid sports fan. Just my kind of guy.
I’ve known Bill for 40 years.
Both Bill and Mike went on to become teachers and coaches at their alma-mater, starting up at the old school on the hill in Delbarton, then later moving to the newer school and gym a couple of miles away. Their sister Mitzi was also a teacher at Burch.
So it’s easy to see that this family was all about their school and community.
Smith was one of the classiest coaches to ever don the sidelines. His calm demeanor was commonplace on the bench, but he could still let the officials know how he felt. I never knew him to get a technical.
Bill starting his coaching career as the assistant boy’s coach to Maynard. Then back in the late 1970s, when Title 9 came along, he became the head coach of the Lady Bulldogs. That’s when West Virginia still played the girl’s season in the fall of the year.
He would go right from the girl’s season and into the boy’s practices in November. At one time he also coached baseball at BHS. Once again, this was getting the program started from scratch.
Bill coached the Lady Bulldogs to the state championship back in 1990, one of the finest Class A teams to ever take the court. He was an assistant to Maynard when Burch won in 1989 and again with his brother Mike and Cousin Jimmy Chafin back in 1991 and 1993.
Smith spent countless hours in the gymnasium.
Facebook has been busy with posts from his many friends, former players and others with their comments on Bill.
Delbarton mayor John Preece had this to say about Bill Smith. “Delbarton won’t be the same. Bill meant so much to so many people and it is very difficult to realize and accept that he has made his journey to Heaven. He was my very good and dear friend, always stopping to talk on the street as he walked his dog. We shared a long standing conversation and love for the New York Yankees, especially the Mickey Mantle teams.”
One of his former players, Kim Davis Smith, had this to say about her former coach. “No words can truly describe what Bill meant to me, my family and how he impacted my life. Bill was loyal, gracious, and humble and always put others before himself. He always stood for what was right no matter the cost. He was my teacher, my coach and friend.”
Kelly Caudill-Taylor, another former player of Smith’s, had this to say.
“I am just heartbroken.”
“Our coaching staff always said to us, ‘You don’t realize what a special team you have here.’ And for the most part, they were probably right. What I believe most of us did understand, though, was how invested they were in each one of us. Not just as players, or students, but human-beings. When you endeavored to be a part of the “program,” you knew your coaches were not just there for you on the court, but in your life. I could give countless examples of this, and I know each person who played under Coach Bill Smith could do the same.”
The Caudill family has long been a part of Burch sports. Kelly’s dad Buzzy, her uncle Chip and her brothers Scott and Jeffrey all played for the Bulldogs.
Smith always had a smile on his face. The last couple of times I saw him was at the grocery store. He always had time to talk.
Rita (Adams) Hatfield was a classmate of Bill’s at Burch. Her son Kevin played for and later coached with Bill Smith at BHS. She wrote this memory of her dear friend.
“I will always cherish my favorite memory of Bill. We were in the 7th or 8th grade in Mr. Elkins afternoon class. During the World Series, Bill brought his transistor radio and we listened to the New York Yankees game. I absolutely loved it! How Bill pulled that off, I don’t know. Bill has always been a great friend to our family. He will be greatly missed.
That familiar face, with his mustache and glasses, with a shy smile - probably wearing royal blue, with red and white trim, will be missed around Delbarton.
There is no doubt Smith will be mourned by the many former students and players whose life he touched over the 35-plus years he taught and coached.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor at the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KyleLovern.)