The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

January 27, 2014

Labette County boys coach reaches milestone victory

Present Labette County boys basketball coach Brad Smith looked around for a new coaching position after the 1993-94 season at Maize High School.

“My wife Kimberly and I wanted to raise our kids in a rural community,” Smith recalled on Monday.

Smith, visiting his old high school (Chaparral), had noticed an opening at Labette County. Clint Witty had stepped down after 15 seasons and 150 wins.

Chris Kastler, then teaching at Chaparral, praised his alma mater, Labette County.

Soon Kimberly, Brad and sons Mathieu and Mitchell were headed for Altamont and the Southeast Kansas League.

Brad Smith claimed his 300th victory as the Grizzly boss on Jan. 14. Labette County beat visiting Pittsburg 65-43 behind 6-6 junior Zack Stewart’s 17 points and 12 rebounds and 6-0 senior Lee Reliford’s 16 points and seven boards.

Witty still is assisting Smith. Kastler is an administrator at Meadow View for USD 506.

“I wasn’t familiar with Southeast Kansas. I hadn’t been to Altamont,” Smith said.

“Chris (Kastler) said Labette County is a lot like Chaparral (where Smith had grown up). It’s all his fault,” Smith said with a laugh.

The Smiths are in their 20th year at Labette County, and they’ve added daughter Addie.

“This school district has been good to me,” said the 51-year-old Smith, who teaches physical education. “We’ve been fortunate to be a part of this community. I really mean that. They stick with their coaches.

“I wanted some longevity,” Smith said. “Hopefully, I would do a good enough job.”

Class 4A Division I Labette County’s 8-3 start has boosted Smith to 303-256. He was head coach six years at Maize with 65 wins.

“You don’t win without good players,” Smith said. “It’s a blessing to have coached as long as I have (30th year). I’m not finished, either.”

Smith, who in addition to Witty is assisted by former Grizzly standout Brian Tucker, was an assistant at Maize for four years before becoming the head coach.

Smith, a 1980 Chaparral graduate, was a guard at Southwestern College of Winfield for coaches Bill Stephens and Mike Sandifa.

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