A `mountain of integrity' in Annapolis

Coach, administrator spent 50 years at Navy

Dave Smalley 1934-2007

June 02, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

Dave Smalley, a former Navy basketball coach whose life revolved around family, sports and the nurturing of young athletes, died yesterday at age 72 at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

The cause of death, according to his son David Smalley, was complications from cancer. Smalley had developed a blood clot on the brain after a fall at home last Saturday night and had been in intensive care since Tuesday.

He spent the past 50 years at the Naval Academy, first as a star basketball and baseball player and later as the men's basketball coach, the women's basketball coach and as an administrator working with admissions.

"I think the one big thing he represented to a large number of people was opportunity," said David Smalley, 48, his oldest son, "whether it was his kids or the kids he mentored through the academy processes."

Born in Baltimore in 1934, Smalley dedicated his life to sports and working with youth. All four of his children grew up participating in athletics and all eventually coached at some level.

"It wasn't required by any means," said Diane Smalley, 43, a diving coach in Virginia Beach, Va. "[But] we all gravitated toward it. We spent our summers going to basketball camps."

When Smalley wasn't coaching basketball at the academy, he ran a YMCA day camp.

"Every year, he sought out underprivileged youth to let them come to the camp for free," David Smalley said.

Smalley was an excellent baseball player - he hit .419 in his junior year at Navy to lead the ECAC in batting - and was a two-time captain of the basketball team.

He replaced Ben Carnevale as men's basketball coach in 1967 and coached the next 10 years, compiling a record of 94-130. In 1977, after women were first admitted to the academy, then athletic director Bo Coppedge asked him to launch a women's team.

In 12 years coaching the women, he posted a record of 178-118, ending with the 1988-89 season.

Last year, the academy named the basketball floor at Alumni Hall after Smalley. Three weeks ago, he was inducted into the Maryland State Hall of Fame with, among others, basketball coach Tubby Smith, NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, and major-league pitchers Denny Neagle and Steve Farr.

As senior associate athletic director at Navy, Smalley was in charge of admissions and assisting student-athletes.

"If a kid has [academic] problems at the academy, they have to appear before an academic board, which makes a determination whether they stay," David Smalley said. "My dad's job was to help represent those kids in those reviews."

There were more than 1,600 hits on a Web site with information on his condition in recent days, Smalley said.

"He's one of those special people who touched a lot of people," said Danny Smalley, 41, who was three months into a one-year recall as a Navy reservist in Kabul, Afghanistan, when he received an e-mail on Wednesday that his father was ill.

Smalley is a commander in Afghanistan, helping to equip, train and mentor the Afghan national army and police.

The elder Smalley recently had been hospitalized with pneumonia and had a "very positive" checkup with his doctor Friday, David Smalley said. But last Saturday night, he lost his balance and struck his head in a fall. It wasn't until Tuesday - when he went back to work at the academy - that problems developed. He was later taken to the emergency room.

A blood clot was detected and he went into an irreversible coma. Surgery was not possible, David Smalley said, because of the cancer he had been fighting for the past six years.

He was then placed on a respirator until Danny Smalley could arrive from Afghanistan. At 4 p.m. yesterday, Smalley was taken off the respirator. He died at 5:07 p.m., seven days shy of he and his wife Gerry's 50th wedding anniversary.

"He was a mountain of integrity," said Jane Good, a professor and colleague of Smalley's at the academy for 28 years. "He embodied everything you want the academy to embody in terms of honor and love of sports."

Smalley is also survived by another daughter, Donna Guadagnini, 47.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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