By Will Brown
In April, the Millsaps Mens basketball team made a major shakeup to their coaching staff. Longtime head coach Tim Wise was moved into the Athletic Department office and the basketball program hired former Division I coach Jimmy Smith to become the new basketball coach.
“After evaluating the program, I thought it was a good idea to move Coach Wise into the athletic department full time and bring in someone new to coach the basketball program” said Millsaps Athletic Director Donnie Brooks. “Coach Wise’s new position will give us the appropriate position to reinvest in our student athletes,” Brooks said. This season, the basketball team won just four games.
Wise served as the head coach of the Millsaps Mens Basketball team for 16 years, but Brooks believed the time was right to make a change. “It was a good time for Coach Wise, but also for our program” Brooks said. “As we plan for the future, I thought Coach Wise had attributes that would benefit our athletic department full time.”
New Coach Jimmy Smith will come in looking to improve the program right away. The basketball team struggled this year, finishing with a record of 4-22 and ending the season on a 13 game losing streak. However, Smith has experience turning around struggling teams. At his previous job at Texas Lutheran University, he led the team to a first place finish on his first year on the job after they had finished last the previous season. Before coaching at Texas Lutheran, he coached at Schreiner University in Texas and also most recently served as an assistant coach at Division I program Sam Houston State University.
There were many candidates, but Smith’s ability to instill confidence in his players and improve teams right away at his previous jobs were attributes that helped land him the job. “We had a strong pool but when Coach Smith entered the pool which included several other D3 coaches we thought we had a great find on our hands” Brooks said. “We needed someone who could come in and build confidence in our players. We needed a program builder. We have a lot of young players, and we need someone to build confidence in them right away.”
Coach Smith says that he believes the Millsaps Basketball team can undergo a similar turnaround to the one that occurred at Texas Lutheran. He says that one of the immediate goals of the team next season is to try and win the conference. Long term, Smith hopes to build the Millsaps Basketball team to a place where they can compete for championships on an annual basis and become one of the top teams in the South region.
Smith believes that the location of Millsaps in downtown Jackson as well as its small campus community can aid recruitment going forward. “I think the school’s location gives us a good place to recruit due to the opportunities students can get” Smith said. Smith says he is looking forward to returning to Division III athletics after a brief stint as a Division I assistant coach at Sam Houston State University.
“I enjoyed coaching D3 basketball and I missed the smaller atmosphere and the community that comes along with it” Smith said.
Daniel Coleman, a sophomore guard believes that a change is in the best interest of the program. “I had a good relationship with Coach Wise, but from an overall team standpoint I felt it was time to make a change” Coleman said. Junior Forward Sam Kohrnke said that immediate changes have already been noticed. “Coach Smith is leading us in the right direction” Kohrnke said. “He is making sure we are working hard.”
Since his arrival at Millsaps, Coach Smith has been very active in recruiting. The basketball team currently has 18 players on their roster for next season and that number could increase within the next few months. This year’s team consisted of just one senior.
Coleman believes that Coach Smith can make an imprint on a young team, and they can improve going forward. “Coach Smith’s resume speaks for itself. He has a proven ability to take mediocre teams and make them into conference champions. I feel like the freshmen coming in will buy into his program and we will be very good within the next couple of years” Coleman said.