University takes time in renewing contract of Smith

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

The southeast women's coach has compiled a 46-16 OVC record in his time at the school.

B.J. Smith is, by winning percentage, the most successful women's basketball coach in Southeast Missouri State history.

Yet plenty of Redhawks fans are wondering about Smith's future with the program, since he is in the last year of his contract.

Many of those same fans also wonder why, given Smith's impressive record in his three-plus seasons at Southeast, the university has not already taken steps to work out a new contract with him.

Southeast athletic director Don Kaverman said Monday that this is simply the way things are generally done with Redhawks coaches.

"Typically that's the way it's done. His contract doesn't expire until the end of April, and we generally don't negotiate during the season; we wait until the season is over," Kaverman said. "He and I have had conversations about his status, even though we haven't formally done anything or announced anything. It's not like we're ignoring the situation.

"Right now the focus is on winning the Ohio Valley Conference title. We'll address this when the season is over. People have to realize, even if he is under contract to us, that doesn't automatically mean we can keep him here. There is nothing to prevent him from accepting another job if an opportunity comes along."

After a slow start this season, the Redhawks have won eight straight games to move into second place in the OVC, and they are tied on the loss side with first-place Tennessee Tech. Southeast is 14-7 overall and 11-3 in conference play.

Smith, in his fourth season at Southeast, has led the Redhawks to a 71-39 record, for a winning percentage of .645. Smith replaced Ed Arnzen, who retired as the winningest women's basketball coach in school history with a 19-year record of 340-202, which is a .627 winning percentage.

The Redhawks had their best-ever Division I season last year, going 22-8, finishing a second-place 14-2 in the OVC and losing in double-overtime in the championship game of the OVC tournament.

Southeast's 46-16 OVC record under Smith over the past three-plus seasons is the best in the conference.

"Coach Smith has obviously demonstrated he can put a winner on the floor," Kaverman said. "He plays a really exciting brand of basketball, and the interest in women's basketball is probably as high as it's ever been here. We're pleased with that."

Smith said his desire is to continue coaching at Southeast.

"I'd love to stay at Southeast. I want to be here," Smith said. "I anticipate when the season's up we'll get everything worked out and have a long-term relationship here.

"I'm not a ladder-jumper. I'm happy where I'm at. I think we can do great things here. I think the best things are still to come for this program. We haven't nearly accomplished what we set out to do. Hopefully I'll be here to do it."

Garner's job status

Southeast basketball fans are also wondering about men's coach Gary Garner's future with the program as the Redhawks are assured of their fourth losing season in the past five years. Like Smith, Garner is in the last year of his contract.

The Redhawks, who have lost eight straight games, are 6-15 overall and a 10th-place 3-12 in the 11-team OVC.

Garner is 125-127 in his ninth year at Southeast, but the Redhawks are just 49-87 over the past four-plus seasons.

Garner led Southeast to OVC regular-season and tournament titles in 1999-2000 as the program made its first, and so far only, NCAA Division I tournament appearance. That was part of a three-year record of 62-28 for Southeast under Garner.

Of a decision on Garner's status, Kaverman said, "It could be before the end of the season. It's an ongoing evaluation. We'll deal with it as soon as we feel we're ready to."

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