Q&A: Columbia basketball adds Kyle Smith to New York's much-changed coaching mix
New coach Kyle Smith took over Columbia men’s basketball, which has dwelt mostly in the Ivy League’s middle or bottom ranks for four decades.
A 40-year-old Houston native, Smith was most recently the assistant coach and architect of the 16th-ranked offense of St. Mary’s (Calif.), which reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in March.
Smith follows Joe Jones, who was 86-108 during seven seasons and left last month to become the top assistant at Boston College.
We caught up with Smith after Wednesday's official introduction at Levien Gymnasium.
The last time that Columbia had a winning record in the Ivies was 1993, right? I’m going with the last time we won the league — 1968. ... I’m trying to make history.
Do you have benchmarks that you want to meets as you go along in the next few years? Absolutely. The first one would be, Let’s have a winning record. ... I think the key to turning it is having many goals. Whether it’s like, you can’t lose back-to-back. ... That’s hard to do. Go get a non-league road win. To be a good team is to be able to win on the road. ... You got to get good at home before you get good on the road.
You’ve got your work cut out for you, huh? Part of the reason I took [this job] is [the 2003 book] “Moneyball.”
What other people don’t value, you value? Bingo. And then I quantify it. ... The baseball analogy was on-base percentage. ... I think the basketball analogy is passing. ... To be able to pass well you got to have a good brain. If you can pass you can do a lot of other things. You anticipate things, you see things. ... Good passers give you good shots — you get layups, 3s.
Columbia has tried to run the Princeton offense in the past. What is your style? We’re four-out, one-in motion. Up tempo.
What’s your favorite part of recruiting? Evaluating, actually. I can sit in a gym for 20 hours watching games. I don’t like to have to find the number, the e-mail, and that part. But I can identify a guy, I can sit there and watch him and, Okay, I think that guy’s going to be good. My schtick has been, Find a guy that really is not getting recruited. You know he’s going to be good, he’s a late bloomer, he’s long, he’s rangy, he’s really skillful, but it’s hard to put a scholarship on that guy because he may not be able to deliver right away. ... I think there’s a lot of guys like that.
This infusion of new coaches into the New York area all at once is strange, isn’t it? It is bizarre. No other way around it. ... As far as scouting, recruiting, I’ve got to get my feet wet a little bit. That learning curve is going to be a little steep.
New York’s Newest Coaches
Columbia (2009-10: 11-17, 5-9 Ivy League): Kyle Smith, St. Mary’s (Calif.) asst.
St. Francis (11-18, 8-10 Northeast): Glenn Braica, ex-St. John’s asst.
Fordham (2-26, 0-16 Atlantic 10): Tom Pecora, Hofstra coach
St. John’s (17-16, 6-12 Big East): Steve Lavin, ex-UCLA coach
Wagner (5-26, 3-15 Northeast): Danny Hurley, St. Benedict’s Prep (H.S.) coach
Hofstra (19-15, 10-8 CAA): Mo Cassara, Boston College asst. (Tim Welsh resigned this week a month after his hiring)
Iona (21-10, 12-6 MAAC): Tim Cluess, C.W. Post coach
Seton Hall (19-13, 9-9 Big East): Kevin Willard, Iona coach
Rutgers (15-17, 5-13 Big East): Mike Rice, Robert Morris coach