Q&A with Loyola coach G.G. Smith

(Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore…)
June 20, 2013|By Matt Bracken | The Baltimore Sun

The differences between G.G. Smith and Jimmy Patsos are too numerous to list. Those dissimilarities, Smith says, are what made their working relationship so strong.

But now that Smith has taken over as Loyola’s men’s basketball coach, and Patsos has settled in at Siena, some things will inevitably change this year at Reitz Arena.

For starters, Smith had to hire three new assistant coaches after Greg Manning and Luke D’Alessio followed Patsos to upstate New York. Then there was the matter of recruiting an entirely new 2013 class after forward Lavon Long (Oakland Mills) and point guard Marquis Wright (North Point) were released from their letters of intent and later signed with the Saints. Shooting guard Maurice White (St. Frances) and power forward Michael Wolfe (Georgetown Prep) also withdrew their commitments to the Greyhounds. White, who never signed an LOI to Loyola, also pledged to Siena (but hasn't yet signed), while Wolfe considered prep school before committing to Patsos again.

The Greyhounds also lost power forward Erik Etherly, wing Bobby Olson, small forward Anthony Winbush and center Julius Brooks to graduation.

There is, however, plenty of continuity on Cold Spring Lane. Senior shooting guard Dylon Cormier (Cardinal Gibbons), senior center Jordan Latham (City) and junior point guard R.J. Williams (St. Frances) will take on leadership roles, while sophomores Tyler Hubbard, Jarred Jones (John Carroll), Eric Laster and Franz Rassman return as well.

Smith will welcome six newcomers to his roster: true freshmen Jevon Patton (a point guard) and Nick Gorski (a power forward); redshirt freshmen Damion Rashford (a shooting guard), Josh Forney (center from St. Frances) and Sean Tuohy Jr. (a point guard); and redshirt junior transfer Denzel Brito (a guard).

Smith spoke with The Baltimore Sun this week about taking over as coach, what he expects from his newcomers and veterans, expectations of the team and more.

What have you been up to since landing the head coaching job? I imagine it’s been pretty hectic since you took over.

Yeah, it’s been pretty hectic. When you get these jobs, you’re trying to do 100 things all at once. My biggest thing has been trying to delegate stuff to my assistants. I hired a great staff. I obviously hired Keith Booth, a guy who was at Maryland, he’s a Baltimore guy. He was over on the women’s side. So I thought it was great to have someone who knew Loyola, knew the Baltimore area very well. So I stole Booth from Coach [Joe] Logan there, the women’s coach. He was OK with it (laughs).

I thought it was very important to hire a Patriot League guy. I hired Josh Loeffler, the [director of basketball operations] at Rutgers this past season. He was at Lafayette with Coach [Fran] O’Hanlon for four years. He knows the Patriot League, he knows the academic index. Gives us a little bit of a different voice. He’s been a head coach before in Division III. So he’s here on our staff.

Hired Dan Ficke, one of our former players. He’s from Colorado, played here four years. I thought it was important to hire a former player. And Kevin Farrell stayed here. He’s the [director of basketball operations], was a former team manager. He pretty much does everything for us. That’s our staff. Other than that, just being in this position now, having worked for Jimmy for six years, the things that you deal with on and off the court are a big change. You become a decision maker, good or bad. Everything falls with me, ends with me. That’s the biggest adjustment.

The recruiting class seemingly fell apart after the coaching change. Was that a contentious or worrisome time for you and the staff, or was it expected?

Well I knew when Jimmy first took the job at Siena, I knew some of the recruits that loved him, there was always thought that those guys would go with Jimmy. We knew that was an option. They were open about that, I was open about that. When they decided to go – Lavon Long and Marquis Wright decided to take their commitments to Siena – we had to recruit a couple guys. We had to get a guard and we had to get a big man.

The guard we signed out of Charlotte, Jevon Patton, his team went 30-0, won a state championship in North Carolina. He’s going to be a great backup point guard to R.J. to start the season. He’s very tough, a leader. One thing I liked about him is he transferred into Olympic High School in North Carolina from a team before where he was a man. Then he became a leader, a distributor because his team has like five Division I guys on the team. He became the leader and delegated authority to other guys on his team. I saw him play a couple times, saw him play in the state championship against [N.C. State coach] Mark Gottfried’s son – Cam Gottfried at Broughton High School. He played extremely well and I was really impressed. So we got him.

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