By Mark Carpenter –
The list of college basketball coaches at any level who have reached the 500 win plateau is not a long one, and it now includes a local connection. Rio Grande University women’s basketball coach David Smalley, a 1978 graduate of Peebles High School, reached the 500 win mark on Jan. 24 with his team’s 93-82 win over Asbury University. With number 500, Smalley ranks as the fourth winningest coach in women’s basketball at the NAIA Division II level.
“”I understand that few coaches are afforded the opportunity to reach the 500 win level,” said Coach Smalley. “Until it happened to me on Jan. 24 I never really gave it any thought. I now realize the impact of reaching this milestone has resonated through my past players as several have reached out with texts and messages of congratulations and memories. Some players have indicated that being in this program and learning the lessons for the program has positively changed their lives forever. Understanding what this program has meant and done for some players is more valuable and memorable to me than any game or championship that we have won.”
“This milestone is simply a reflection over the years of great players who are wonderful people, resilient and passionate assistant coaches, and a blessed family unit of support and encouragement.”
If you travel to Peebles High School and look at the Hall of Fame plaques near the gymnasium, you will see the plaque of Dave Smalley with his high school accomplishments. He totaled 1,060 points in his high school basketball career and at one time had the single game record of 48 points.
“As I matriculated through Peebles High School, I had the good fortune of being around genuine people that had a profound impact on me and the direction I chose to take,” says Smalley. “Coach Arthur Myers, my high school coach, the late Keith Matheny, my JV coach and baseball coach, Jerry Edwards, my freshman coach, Mr. Dean Bailey, my high school guidance counselor., and teacher Sheila Maggard-each of these people gave unselfishly which allowed me the opportunity to experience and see the benefits other than wins and losses that the game of basketball can provide. I have taken lessons from all my past coaches and try to pay forward to the players I coach today.”
“I am still learning new lessons every day from this exciting, rewarding, and humbling sport. When I stop learning, I will stop coaching.”
Smalley also recalls more of his early days in Peebles.
“When I was in junior high, I used to sneak into Coach Jerry Copley’s practices and watch Chuck Johnson and his crew. My passion for playing the game started with me wanting to be like Johnson and Joey Ryan and others as they laid the strong foundation for Peebles basketball that is till thriving today. The excitement that was generated and felt throughout the community by the fans, parents, and overall school spirit was intoxicating. I’m blown away every time I attend a PHS basketball game today and I still see so many loyal fans and faces that were supporting and cheering on the boys and girls in the 70’s. When my brief playing days were over, I quickly realized I could continue my love for the game through coaching.”
Smalley has headed the girls’ program at Rio Grande for 25 years now and is also an Assistant Professor in the Health and Physical Education department, teaching a full load of classes. Prior to Rio, he spent three years as an assistant at Morehead State, and before that he worked as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where he earned a Master of Education Degree in Sports Administration. He is also an 1982 alumni of Rio Grande.
“One does not reach this plateau without a host of support throughout the years,” said Smalley. “My wife of 32 years, Judge Margaret Evans and daughter Evans Smalley have been my foundation of support and guidance. I am blessed with a strong, supportive cast at home, a family that is invested in what I do and a family that is an important part of who I am, a small college basketball coach. My “assistant coach” and mother-in-law Rose Evans has been there for every game in a supporting role. I have had tremendous assistant coaches over the years, four of whom are now college head coaches. I have had the opportunity to be mentored by Coach John Lawhorn when he was at Rio, and my college coaches, Robert Leith and Art Lanham, were instrumental in my development. Coach Leith taught me that coaching the X’s and O’s of the game is simply a by-product of mastering the proper treatment of people. My “Jacktown” family, mother Edith Smalley and father Dale Smalley were the backbone and unconditional supporting cast that sacrificed to allow an athletic foundation to be strong and available to me.”
“One thought that comes to mind regarding 500 wins, is “wow, that’s a lot of bus rides!” These past 25 years have been an unbelievably positive journey. When I meet new people and they ask me what I do for a living, I hesitate prior to answering because I don’t feel like I punch a time clock and work. Coaching basketball is not a job to me in the sense that I feel like I have to go to work every day. I love being involved in coaching basketball and attempting to blend old school philosophies with modern day athletes and society.”
No matter how many wins Coach Smalley accumulates in the rest of his already outstanding career, he has never forgotten his Adams County roots.
“I am simply a good old Adams County boy that was given a golden opportunity from a host of wonderful people and family in the Peebles community to grow up with direction, admiration, and respect from where I came from.”
“Basketball was and is the vehicle that has allowed me to experience a wonderful life in playing and coaching this great sport.”