Born: September 8, 1944

A true legend of the coaching profession, the 2012-13 season was the last for Missouri Western State University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Smith as he announced his retirement in December of 2012 after 38 years of being a head coach and more than 45 years in the coaching profession.

Born in Gary, Indiana, in 1944, Coach Smith would be introduced to basketball at an early age.

After a successful high school career, he matriculated to Valparaiso University; where he would play for and coach with the legendary Missourian, Gene Bartow.

Smith began his head coaching career in 1975 as he took over a Central Missouri program that hadn’t had a winning season in the previous four years and immediately turned them back into a winner.  In the 1979-80 season at UCM, Smith led the Mules to a 26-2 record, an MIAA Championship and a berth in the NCAA South Central Regional Tournament.  Following the season, Tom was named the MIAA Coach of the Year and received NCAA District V Coach of the Year honors.

In the spring of 1980, Smith left Central Missouri for an opportunity to coach at his alma mater, Division I Valparaiso.  Smith won 84 games in his tenure at Valpo and produced eight student-athletes who were recognized as All-Conference selections.

In April of 1988, Smith made a tough decision in leaving Valparaiso to become the third Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Missouri Western State University, a place that he has now called home for the last 25 years.  He quickly resurrected the winning tradition for Griffon Basketball as he led the Griffons to the finals of the 1988-89 District 16 playoffs in his first year at the helm which was MWSU’s final year of NAIA membership.  The following year, Griffon Basketball became a player on the NCAA national scene, when they won the MIAA Regular Season and Post Season Championships and advanced to their first NCAA National Tournament.

Smith’s style of coaching consistently kept the Griffons among the top members of the MIAA and NCAA teams.  His teams were always up-tempo, high-energy and full of talent throughout his years at Missouri Western. Smith coached the Griffons to 11 NCAA Division II National Tournaments, five MIAA Regular Season Championships and four MIAA Postseason Tournament Titles. Smith was named the MIAA’s Coach of the Year twice during his tenure at Missouri Western.

If you ask Coach Smith what his greatest accomplishment has been, he will respond with one word, “Relationships”.  The following quotes from previous players and athletic boosters echo his sentiments.

Keion Kindred 2006-08

“Coach Smith didn’t only teach me about the game of basketball….he taught me the real values of life and how to be a better man.  He was a great coach and father figure.”

Scott Graham  Former Football Player and Long-time Booster

“Your contributions to my alma mater go so far beyond wins and losses.  You’ve been a role model and mentor to younger coaches on the staff, a leader and teacher of young athletes; and  the face of athletics in the community, all the while being successful on the floor.  You’ve made Missouri Western, the place I love, a better place by your career here.”

With the Griffons 81-63 victory at Emporia State on January 21, 1998, Smith became the all-time leader in wins in MWSU history surpassing legendary coach and Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Member Gary Filbert’s previous mark.

Equally as impressive, Smith is the winningest basketball coach in MIAA history with 516 wins  while coaching at a MIAA institution and in 38 seasons as a collegiate head coach at three different schools, Smith has compiled a 618-463 record, a .575 winning percentage that ranks him 3rd among active coaches at the Division II level.

While the milestones and accomplishments over the years have been plentiful, maybe the most impressive came during the 2011-12 season as he reached a pinnacle victory for collegiate coaches as he joined elite company in winning his 600th career game with the Griffons 69-55 victory in the MWSU fieldhouse over Fontbonne on November 13, 2011.

As a coach, Tom recorded 6 MIAA Regular season championships, four MIAA postseason championships, 12 NCAA tournament appearances, and 13 20+ win seasons.

Coach Smith is a member of four Halls of Fame including, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Hall of Fame, the Missouri Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, the Valparaiso Athletics Hall of Fame, the Missouri Western Athletics Hall of Fame as an individual and as part of his 1989-90 team.  He is also a recipient of the prestigious Missourian Award.