Longtime Annapolis resident and former University of Maryland men’s lacrosse great C. Rennie Smith died on Sunday at the age of 86.
Smith was a legendary figure in Maryland lacrosse history, starring as a player in the 1950s then serving as an assistant coach during the 1960s and 1970s.
Smith, a Baltimore native and Poly Technical High graduate, played at Maryland from 1952 through 1955 and was a three-time United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association All-American. In 1954, he was presented with the prestigious Jack Turnbull Award as the nation’s most outstanding attackman.
Smith concluded his career as Maryland’s all-time leading scorer with 128 points. Despite playing significantly less games, Smith remains 29th all-time at Maryland in career points and remains in the top 20 for career assists (73).
As a senior captain in 1955, Smith led Maryland to its first undefeated season and the USILA national championship. He helped jump-start a streak of 31 straight victories from 1954-57 under co-head coaches Jack Faber and Al Heagy.
Smith returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach under Faber and Heagy then remained on staff as defensive coordinator when John “Hezzy” Howard took over. Annapolis native Alan Pastrana played defense for Smith from 1966-68. Pastrana said Smith worked the players hard and was tough as a Marine Corps drill sergeant, but always brought humor to the practice field each day.
“Coach Smith would yell at me throughout the game, ‘Alan, just guard your attackman stick-on-stick and body-on-body and don’t slide off the crease,’ and whenever I made a mistake he would tell me to just forget about it,” Pastrana said.
Pastrana remembers Smith annually telling players on the first day of practice that there are “30 lockers in the Byrd Hilton and 40 candidates so good luck.” Smith always wanted to beat archrival Johns Hopkins and following a long weekend trip to West Point to play Army he decided Pastrana needed a break.
“Alan, get in my car, we have Hopkins next week so I’m taking you home to Annapolis to sleep in your own house and get some of your mother’s cooking,” Smith told Pastrana.
Smith was an assistant coach when Maryland claimed its final USILA national championship in 1967. He was on the staff of head coach Clayton “Buddy” Beardmore as the Terrapins captured the NCAA national championship in 1973 and 1975.
“I learned respect for Rennie the moment I met him. He came acrosse tough as a Marine, but on second glance his smiles and jokes made you feel comfortable,” said Ira Hochstadt, co-captain of the 1971 Maryland lacrosse team. “Rennie was a players’ coach and we wanted to win for him.”
St. Mary’s High graduate Eddie Mullen was a member of both the ’73 and ’75 squads and recalled it was Smith that primarily recruited him to Maryland. Beardmore, a Severna Park native who coached Maryland for 11 years, died in January, 2016 at the age of 76.
“Buddy came up with the slogan ‘Be the Best’ and Rennie was the absolute best,” Pastrana said. “An excellent coach is hard to find, difficult to part with and impossible to forget. I certainly will never forgot Rennie Smith.”
Now that both are gone, Mullen treasures the time he spent with both Beardmore and Smith during a reunion for either the 1973 or 1975 national championship teams that was held at Byrd Stadium.
“Freddy Kramer brought Buddy and Rennie and we had them up in the Tyser Tower drinking beers and telling stories,” Mullen said. “Rennie was a great Terp and a great person. He will be sorely missed.”
Smith, who was inducted into the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009, also served as a volunteer coach for the Annapolis Elks recreation program and as an assistant at St. Mary’s High and with the McGarvey’s club team.
Smith was president and partner of Basil Voges Insurance and resided in the Amberley neighborhood of St. Margaret’s while raising a family. He later lived on Maryland Avenue in downtown Annapolis for many years.
Smith is survived by his two children – Andrew (wife Mary Beth) and Stephanie (husband Doug Rice) – along with seven grandchildren.
Andy Smith was a standout lacrosse player in his own right – the Baltimore Sun Player of the Year as a senior at St. Mary’s High in 1980 and an All-Atlantic Coast Conference midfielder at North Carolina.
The Smith family will conduct a celebration of life at Galway Bay on Maryland Avenue this Friday beginning at 2 p.m.