Legendary Washington coach Dave Smith passes away

FILE PHOTO | DAILY NEWS

FILE PHOTO | DAILY NEWS

“He’s the reason why I played in the NBA all those years. He prepared me for that,” said NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, a nine-time all-star, Washington native and former Pam Pack basketball player under Hall of Fame coach Dave Smith. “We all loved coach Smith. He was tough, he was hard, but he was fair. I’ll tell you the truth … he’s the best coach I’ve ever had on any level. He was an unbelievable coach, an unbelievable communicator.”

Smith passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 82, according to the Hillside Funeral Home.

Smith guided the Pam Pack to back-to-back North Carolina State Championships in 1978 and ’79. His championship squad would feature four future Div. 1 starters, including Wilkins and Alvis Rogers.

During his stint as Pam Pack head coach from 1972 to 1991, Smith compiled a 520-233-career record, which included a 56-game winning streak, nine conference championships and four runner-up finishes.

“He was an iconic figure in Washington, a household name,” Wilkins said. “He had so many great seasons as a head coach, it was unbelievable. Just the teams I played on, the team went 76-1 in three years under coach Smith’s tutelage. He was just a great motivator and a great teacher of the game.”

Smith was named North Carolina Coach-of-the-Year in 1979 and was inducted into the NCHSAA Hall of Fame in 2004.

In December 2011, Washington High School honored its celebrated coach by renaming the gymnasium in his honor.

“Washington itself — not just Washington High School, but the community of Washington — is going to feel this loss,” said Allison Jones, a Washington native, Pam Pack girls’ basketball coach and current athletic director. “They suffered a loss of a true champion. He was so committed to education and education through athletics. He was such a role model for all the kids in the community. We were just very fortunate to have someone like him.”

Last year, the NCHSAA honored him, once again, by adding him to the list of the top-100 high school coaches of the last century.

The 82-year-old, who began his coaching career at P.S. Jones, coaching basketball, football and tennis, was a common sight at Washington Youth Basketball League gatherings, AAU events and Pam Pack basketball games.

Despite all the accolades and triumphs, Smith always said his most notable accomplishment was off the court — a perfect attendance record. In 34 years of teaching and coaching, he never missed a single day.

“I love coach Smith,” Wilkins said. “He was the reason why I’m in the position I’m at today. It’s because of him.”

Funeral arrangements for Smith are incomplete.