Marty Smith, Experienced Coaching Staff Looking to Build in Year 2
Marty Smith is still looking for 32 minutes of chaos, but he wants his players calm as the eye of
a storm in 2020.
Smith retained much of his all-star coaching staff and the Thompson girls basketball team
returns a good bit of varsity experience headed into a new season full of possibilities.
“We've got 10 girls that saw varsity action last year returning and because of that we are able to
build off of that and hopefully improve on our 11-19 record from last year.”
The team didn’t have the season they envisioned in their first year together, yet were still just a
few baskets from advancing in the area tournament and a Sweet 16 postseason appearance.
Senior Lindsay Cook still feels the sting from the way the season ended.
“I think that loss set us a step back to take two steps forward,“ said Cook. “We are coming back
stronger this year because of it. We still carry that loss with us today.”
“Sometimes you have to learn how to lose in order to win,” says Smith. “When we walked off the
court after that game I saw dejection, I saw hurt, I saw a pain. I saw the eagerness to want to
get back and start getting better.”
Smith knows moments like that can lead to great things down the road. Before his teams at
John Carroll won back-to-back state championships, they lost in the postseason on a last
“It’s got to hurt to lose, it’s got to gnaw at you. And for the first time I saw these girls hurt after 32
minutes,” said Smith. “COVID took away a lot of opportunities in the spring, but I saw the
attitude change during the summer, the work ethic, the desire to be here and the girls pushing
Like with any new coaching staff, there was an adjustment period for the players. Figuring out
each other and the new playing philosophy was an intense, methodical process, but they’ve
come out of it with a better understanding of what’s needed for success in year two.
“We didn’t understand what his coaching style was and this year we know what he’s like, we
know what our expectations are this season and we know how hard we need to go inpractice,”
says Cook. “I think, as a senior, I have to lead and make sure we don’t lose sight of those
Learning and applying Coach Smith’s system in real time, last year’s team had to emphasize
effort to make up for the mental aspect of the game. In year two, the team expects to play better
together and with more continuity as they begin to employ Smith’s strategies.
“They’re grasping the game in a way they never have before,” says Smith. “The growth has
been tremendous and they’ve bought in and they’re understanding the integral parts of the
game that we’re going over their heads last year.”
The coaching staff is learning to compliment each other as well. With close to 100 years of
coaching experience, each member has a lot to offer and the freedom Smith gives his coaches
helps them pick their moments as they continue to gel with the players and each other.
“The buck stops with me but I let my coaches coach,” says Smith. “I expect them to bring their
knowledge of the game and for them to be able to teach that knowledge. At some point in time I
may not be able to reach someone on the court, but another coach might can by just saying the
same thing a different way.”
Smith harkens back to his childhood trips with his uncle, a retired SEC football official, and in
particular a brief conversation with legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Smith remembers one
question he asked: what makes you so good.
Bryant responded, “I’m smart enough to hire better people around me.” It’s a coaching
philosophy Smith still carries with him to this day and it’s the main reason behind the staff he’s
Thompson added Bryan Burgess who goes back to Smith’s days at UAB when he squared off
with Burgess who was coaching at Samford. Marty also brought in John London who’s coached
Division 2 college ball, spent the last few years coaching girls basketball at Mountain Brook and
will oversee the middle school program.
Coach Smith and his staff are trying to ingrain a gritty mentality in their players with promises
that results will come regardless when great effort is involved.
“They are practicing harder than they ever have before and they’re not scared to fail,” says
Smith. “They are learning: go hard and if you mess up, you mess up, but do it going hard. A lot
of things happen when you go hard.”
Ariana Smith, Zion Gaiters, Alicia Reazor and Alayah King are among the players Smith named
who have grown tremendously and have added different parts to their game.
Smith, King and Malaysia Samuel are also members of the track team like departed senior
London Wooley and will continue to push the pace and pressure on defense.
As the Warriors continue to set their foundation, fans are sure to see an aggressive, entertaining
brand of basketball, but this year that chaos will be controlled as they look to take the next step