By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The St. Joseph Sports Commission unveiled its second St. Joseph Area Sports Hall of Fame Class last week, and one inductee is one of the more influential college basketball coaches in the city’s history.
Former Missouri Western men’s basketball coach Tom Smith is a 2022 St. Joseph Area Sports Hall of Fame inductee after leading the Griffons to a school record 448 wins in 25 seasons from 1988 – 2013.
Smith, who’s already in five other Halls of Fame, says this one is particularly special.
“This is a special award and a special Hall of Fame to go into, because it’s in the town I lived in with my family and wife,” Smith said. “Patsy worked for the school for 20 years plus.”
Smith took the Missouri Western men’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament 11 times and won five MIAA regular season and five MIAA tournament titles. He was inducted into this year’s Area Sports Hall of Fame with 11 other individuals, along with St. Joseph-based Herzog Motorsports.
Smith’s coaching career spans 36 total years – 25 of those at Missouri Western. Smith says when he was looking for his next coaching job in 1988, he had noticed that St. Joseph was a pretty strong basketball town, given what other regional schools it was up against.
“In the middle of Missouri and Kansas and Kansas State and everything else, it still held its own,” Smith said. “I don’t want to say it was more important than football, but (basketball) held its own with football. It was one of the things I considered very highly, and I think as the years wore on, I became even more convinced (St. Joseph) was a great place to coach.”
Smith also coached at his alma mater Valparaiso and Central Missouri, compiling 618 total wins in his career.
He’s already a member of the Missouri Western Athletics Hall of Fame, the MIAA Hall of Fame and several more. The floor at Missouri Western Fieldhouse was named in Smith’s honor in February 2019.
Director of the St. Joseph Sports Commission Brett Esely says Smith took over at a time when Missouri Western transitioned from NAIA to NCAA competition, and he had the whole community excited about his team.
“(The MWSU Fieldhouse) was packed,” Esely said. “It was the place to be on Saturday night. The level of play was good. You held on every play, and it was like that for 25 seasons in Coach Smith’s career at Missouri Western State University.”
The entire 2022 St. Joseph Area Sports Hall of Fame class will officially be enshrined into the St. Joseph Area Sports Hall of Fame during a September ceremony at Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center.
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