East Surry Shocker: Coach can’t coach

Robert Smith, the East Surry Cardinals’ longtime girls coach retired on Feb. 28. Smith announced his retirement earlier in the year having no real clue or any idea that his Cardinal team would end up in the NCHSAA West Regionals in Greensboro.

East Surry made it to Greensboro and the Cardinals beat Hiwassee Dam last night, but Smith couldn’t coach his team. He had to sit in the stands and watch.

Smith’s retirement took effect February 28 and the state says once you are retired, you can’t work/coach again for six months. As of Sunday March 1, Smith was out of a job. Smith can’t coach his own team. His Cardinals overachieved or at least they did according to Smith’s expectations and his team is still playing and he’s not coaching.

Maybe Smith’s girls out-did themselves or maybe Smith should have checked his calendar closer and set his retirement date for March 15. The East Surry Cardinals are still playing and all Robert Smith can do is sit and watch.

Here’s the inside from Mark Pruitt at the Winston-Salem Journal’s journalnow.com:

When new Coach Brent Long assembled the East Surry Cardinals for their first practice together Monday afternoon, he said he had one message.

“Let’s not make our first practice together our last one,” Long said.

Long took over the head-coaching duties from Robert Smith, the Cardinals’ longtime coach who retired on Feb. 28.

Long, whose daughter, Kelsey, is one of the standouts on the East Surry team, isn’t totally unfamiliar in his new role. He enjoyed a long coaching stint at Alleghany and has coached his daughter in AAU basketball, but he said that this will be the first time he has coached on the high-school level in four years and the first time he has ever coached in a Regional playoff game.

“I picked a great time to start again,” Long said with a laugh. “It will be fun to be back out there.”

Long said he was hand-picked by Smith to be his replacement and was honored to get the nod. He was in the locker room when Smith made the announcement after Friday night’s Sectional final win over Mount Airy.

Long, an assistant principal at East Surry, has been to every game this season and is familiar with the team’s sets on both offense and defense.

“Everything will remain the same,” Long said. “I’m not changing anything at all. The fact that these girls are still playing is a testament to Robert and all the great things he’s been able to accomplish during his career. And I think the greatest tribute we can give him is to keep winning.”

Long said that after the initial shock of Smith’s retirement announcement wore off, the team realized that it still had some work to do this season.