Coach led 2012-13 Falcons to a 21-4 record
Mike Smith never stopped coaching when he walked away from the Prairie girls basketball head coaching position after the 2012-13 season.
He just stopped at the high school level.
“Ever since I left, I was coaching my daughter,” Smith said. “I went from varsity girls to third-grade girls. That was a big step for me. Kind of brought me back to the fundamentals.”
Those fundamentals have brought Smith back to Prairie, back to the girls basketball program. Smith was officially named the head coach, again, last week.
“Just to be here, with a new administration, giving me a second chance, I thought that was awesome,” Smith said.
His daughter Claire will be a basketball player at Prairie. Smith said that will be quite the opportunity, as well, coaching her in high school.
“It goes by fast,” he said of being a parent.
In his first stint with the program, Smith was in the unenviable position of being the first coach after the resignation of six-time state champion coach Al Aldridge. Smith’s Falcons went 21-4 that year, losing in the regional round of the state tournament.
He said the pressure of taking over the program never got to him that year.
“I put enough pressure on myself,” he said. “I have to fill my own shoes. I don’t worry about someone else’s shoes.”
It turned into a one-and-done job, though.
Well, maybe not done after all. This time, he is taking over for Hala Corral, who resigned after the 2019-20 season. Corral led Prairie to the 2018-19 state title.
“I just think you get a little wiser,” Smith said, now that he is in his 50s. “It’s not always about the X’s and O’s. It’s about building character, making kids better people instead of just basketball players. Am I worried about winning? Yeah, I love to win, just like anybody else. But it’s not everything.”
Smith will be in his 29th year of teaching, as well. He is the P.E. teacher at Marion Elementary in Evergreen Public Schools.
After school, he’ll head closer to his home, just a few minutes from Prairie High School, to return to the Falcons as the head coach.
“I’m happy to be back. I know it’s not going to be easy,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to work hard. That’s my job, making sure the girls are working hard.”
There will be pressure. That’s part of any head coaching job, but especially at Prairie. Still, outside pressure, Smith said, does not get to him.
And about that Prairie mystique?
“Prairie is what it is,” Smith said. “Everybody knows Prairie girls basketball is the cream of the crop.”