Frankie Smith grew up as a gym rat.
He was lucky that his father coached in the long-standing Williamson Midget League and had a key to the old Chattaroy gym.
Back in the day, if kids weren’t in the gym, they were on the playground or on someone’s driveway court playing basketball from morning till night.
But, times have changed.
“When we ended up on our final day of workouts, I gave everybody a summer workout list,” said Smith, who was hired recently to be the new boys’ basketball coach at Mingo Central. “That was for every position. From the post players, the perimeter players – there is a workout for each of the players. The secret to success is hard work and discipline. They are going to have to be working out on their own.”
Long term, Smith wants to see his school become a thriving basketball program.
“I want to see us become like Tug Valley,” Smith said of that school’s success.
He knows about that first hand. He led the Panthers to the Class AA state championship back in 1999. That success has continued.
“I want to be able to compete for the state title every year,” Smith said. “Rabbit (Coach Garland Thompson) has done a phenomenal job. It reminds me of the situation of when I was an assistant at Tug Valley and then was hired as the head coach. It is amazing to go in there now and see all of the banners. That is a standard that has been set in this community and even in the state. I want to have great feeder school programs with my four schools. I want to work with the buddy leagues in the communities too.”
Smith said it will take that group effort to be competitive each and every year in Double-A. “I want people across the state to look at Mingo Central as a great basketball school.”
But the Miner fans will have to be patient. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes most coaches four years to build a solid program.
“It’s going to take a while,” Smith added. “It took me four years to make it to the state tournament and six years to win a state championship.”
Smith says he wants to get a consistent freshman program built, which will help the feeder system, along with the middle schools.
He praised the work of two of his assistant coaches, Julius “Boo Boo” Hatcher and David “Moose” Ledger for their hard work during the 3-week summer period. Pending approval, Smith hopes to add his father, Frank Smith, as a volunteer assistant to his staff this year.
Smith knows there are always high expectations, but now that Mingo Central is in the Cardinal Conference, they will have a very competitive schedule year in and year out.
Teams like Chapmanville, Poca, Scott, Tolsia and others usually have strong programs. Smith rattled off the names of coaches like Allen Osborne of Poca and Harry Kirk of Chapmanville Regional, who coach in the conference.
Besides 14 games in that strong Class AA conference, Mingo Central will also play Belfry and Tug Valley twice per year, two teams that are local rivals. He hopes to schedule Logan for two games a year starting in 2013 and also host a top-notch holiday tournament on the campus of MCHS.
With the holiday tournament, Smith would like to combine it as a Breast Cancer Awareness event, which has been a trend around the country. He hopes to get a local health care sponsor for that and have the teams wear some pink wrist bands or even uniforms or warm-up T-shirts to honor breast cancer survivors.
“Rivalries only become rivalries if you can win some games,” Smith said with a smile. He praised the coaching of Belfry’s Randy Casey, Tug Valley’s Rabbit Thompson and Logan’s Mark Hatcher.
“I think this could be the toughest Double-A schedule in the state,” Smith said.
He said the expectations are high.
“But, I’ll be honest with you – there has to be players to be good,” Smith said. “We have to develop our players and that will determine how good we can be. One thing we will have to instill at Mingo Central is to protect our home court. With his past experience as a coach, he knows if you can win your home games and half of your road games, you can have a winning season and then hopefully move through the post season. I hear we have a great atmosphere at the home games with the Mingo Maniacs and that is very important.”
Smith said he’s happy to be back.
After several years as an assistant coach for Charlie Coles at Miami (Ohio) in the MAC he then went on to be the head coach at Saginaw Valley State (Mich.).
“Me and Jill are really excited to be back home,” Smith said. “There is nothing more I would love – that in the near future – to see both us and Tug Valley bring home a Class AA and Class A state championship to Mingo County.”
Smith said he has received an outpouring of support. He has even gotten calls from some of his former Tug Valley players and their fans wishing him luck – except for the two games the Miners play the Panthers – he said smiling.
Smith said he would even like to see a repeat of the historical 1964 season where three teams within a 50-mile radius won the three state championships. Kermit won in Class A, Williamson in Class AA and Logan in AAA that year.
“We can do a southern sweep,” Smith said. “But we have a lot of work to do.”