St. Al taps ex-Viking Smithhart as head coach|[04/25/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008

Taylor will stay as athletic director; Miller retained to coach boys, girls hoops

B.J. Smithhart is coming home.

The former Warren Central player and assistant coach, who has been coaching at Stone County High in South Mississippi, took over the St. Aloysius football program on Thursday, replacing veteran coach Jim Taylor.

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Taylor, who coached the Flashes for the past 10 years, will remain the school’s athletic director.

“It was time for a change,” Taylor said Thursday. “It was not a loss for the love of the game or for the kids. I think this will be good for everyone. It’s a new opportunity for the kids and it will help our overall athletic program.”

For Smithhart, the St. Al job represented a chance to become a head football coach. For the past two seasons, he was the offensive coordinator for coach Brian Oakes at Stone County. Oakes and Smithhart were assistants on Curtis Brewer’s staff at Warren Central before Oakes left to take the job at Stone.

“This was a chance to be a head coach and I think it’s a great opportunity,” Smithhart said. He is a native of Warren County and played offensive guard for the Vikings from 1994-96.

“His daddy (Bobby) played at Warren Central and then went on to play at Southern Miss and both B.J. and his brother (Ben) played for the Vikings,” Taylor said.

Returning starting quarterback Chris Lewis said the change will give the Flashes an energy boost.

“We’re all pretty excited for the program. We only lost four seniors off last year’s team. But I think with the new coach, we’ll pick up some guys who may have been playing other sports,” Lewis said.

Lewis was one of 39 players who came out to the Thursday mid-morning conference to meet Smithhart. The group included 11 rising seniors and 12 rising juniors.

“I am an offensive guy,” Smithhart told his players. “It’s an offense we ran at Stone. It’s basically the I (formation) but we will use a lot hand signals for the receivers. It’ll be exciting.”

“Having five wide receivers and doing the hand signals will open things up for us,” said Lewis, whose grown another inch in height to stand 6-foot-3 and now weighs 200 pounds. He’s been invited to summer camps at Southern Miss, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Michigan.

The Flashes will begin spring workouts on May 5.

Taylor’s assistants in Jimmy Salmon, who ran the defense, and Mike Jones, who coached the line, will remain. Will Vollor, a teammate of Smithhart’s at WC, will join the football staff. He will remain as the boys soccer coach.

Taylor also said that Gary Miller, the former girls coach at Clinton High School, has agreed to come back and coach both the St. Al boys and girls teams next season. Miller stepped in to coach the boys after Larry Smith left the school after seven games.

“Having coach Miller from the start will bring a lot of new interest to our basketball program,” Taylor said. “He thought about it a long time after the season ended about coming back, and we’re just happy to have someone experienced and who’s adaptable to high school coaching.”