Paul E. Smith
(Baltimore Sun)

Paul E. Smith, former head basketball coach at Dunbar High School and McDonogh School who later coached in Baltimore County public schools, died Monday of kidney failure at Maryland General Hospital.

The Randallstown resident was 71.

"Paul coached for the love of basketball and working with young people," said Ronald Belinko, who had been director of athletics for Baltimore County for 46 years until retiring earlier this year. "He knew how to work with kids and coached for all the right reasons and without any ego."

Paul Everett Smith was born in Baltimore and raised in the 2500 block of McCulloh St. He graduated in 1959 from Frederick Douglass High School, where he had been captain of the basketball and baseball teams his senior year.

He attended what is now Baltimore City Community College, where he earned first team all-regional honors as a member of the basketball team.

Mr. Smith was recruited by Virginia Union University in Richmond, where he played basketball. He was the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association selection his junior year and team captain his senior year.

After graduating in 1964 with a bachelor's degree, he was a physical education instructor in Baltimore public schools.

From 1974 to 1990, Mr. Smith headed the physical education department at McDonogh School. During his 16 years coaching basketball at the Owings Mills private school, he had a record of 236-135 and won six Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference titles.

Al Leslie, a Job Corps GED math instructor in Woodstock, played for Mr. Smith as a student at McDonogh.

"I've been playing a long time, and Coach Smith was the coach who had the most impact on my career. He was the first coach I had where the emphasis wasn't about winning," said Mr. Leslie, who lives in Reservoir Hill.

"It was about team building and getting the guys to work together, and when they did, that camaraderie got good results," he said.

"I can't express how much he meant to me. What he gave us were life lessons and at the end of the day, basketball was nothing more than a game," said Mr. Leslie. "It's how you lived your life and related to people, that was what was important."

Mr. Smith coached at Sidwell Friends in Northwest Washington from 1990 to 1992, posting a 25-23 record. He returned to Baltimore public schools as a coach at Charles Carroll of Carrollton Elementary School in East Baltimore, where earlier he had taught future Dunbar High School stars Skip Wise, Kevin Bush and DeWayne Ward.

Mr. Smith was named basketball coach at Dunbar in 1993, succeeding the legendary Pete Pompey, who had been a teammate when both were students at Douglass.

At the time of Mr. Smith's hiring, the Dunbar basketball program was ranked No. 8 nationally, and The Baltimore Sun observed that he was "familiar with the basketball tradition of East Baltimore."

"With Dunbar," Mr. Smith told The Sun at the time, "you're talking about a nationally ranked program that has been consistently good for 40 years. They've always been extremely competitive and it's unfair to ask McDonogh's program to be compared to them in any way, shape or form."

Mr. Smith guided the East Baltimore high school to state championship titles in 1994, 1995 and 1996, his last year at the school. His overall record during his tenure as the Poets' coach was 69-10.

Mr. Smith was assistant basketball coach for Towson University's women's basketball team from 1996 to 1999. In 2000, he was named boys basketball coach at Pikesville High School.

He also was basketball coach at Western Tech, in Baltimore County.

"Paul took over the programs at both Pikesville and Western Tech at a time when they needed some productive guidance and ... stabilization," said Mr. Belinko.

During his career, Mr. Smith was named The Sun Coach of the Year three times at McDonogh (1976, 1984 and 1986) and once at Dunbar (1996). In his 21 years as a high school coach, he compiled a 329-168 record.

In 1999, he was honored as a Black Living Legend by the Academy of Arts and Letters in a ceremony at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In 2001, he was inducted into the McDonogh School Hall of Fame for his lengthy service and contributions to the school.

He had been a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the Virginia Union University Miles W. Conner Alumni Chapter.

Mr. Smith had been an active member of Douglas Memorial Community Church, where he ushered and had been director of Douglas' Camp Farthest Out, a summer camp operated by the church.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at his church, 1325 Madison Ave.

Surviving are a son, Shawn Strickland of Jacksonville, Fla.; two daughters, Ann Lynn Parker of Fremont, Calif., and Kristen Elizabeth Smith of Atlanta; a stepson, the Rev. Todd R. Smith Sr. of Hampton, Va.; his mother, Bernice Smith of Pikesville; and three grandchildren. Marriages to the former Brenda Goburn and the former Racquel Bernadette Dotson ended in divorce.