Longtime Laney coach Smart saw memorable season

As difficult as it is to believe, Otis Smart’s Laney girls program hasn’t always been a dominant force.


Well, at least for a few weeks it wasn’t.

Looking back, after Smart was named the new varsity basketball coach in the mid-1980s, he recalled he lost his first four games. But, in true Laney fashion, the Lady Wildcats regrouped and won more than 20 games that season.

Laney is never down for long.

“Everybody started saying, ‘That wasn’t the right coach they picked.’ I went through that,” Smart said. “But we turned it around – it was a great season. From that time on, we always won.”

That included this season, as the Lady Wildcats were undefeated until the Class AA state title game. They lost to Wesleyan, but Laney had a season of dominance that made Smart, who has won more than 700 games at Laney, The Augusta Chronicle’s Georgia Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

With post players Khadijiah Cave and Simone Smith and steadily improving guard play, the Lady Wildcats got better as the season went on. Laney was a force with full-court pressure, submerging opponents in a deluge of turnovers and layups.

In arriving at Laney, Smart was the JV boys coach. He was later moved to the girls varsity head position.

“It’s about the kids. It helps them get to the next level, through their skills. They really try to master it,” Smart said. “This team, this year, the players really did a good job providing different types of responsibilities among each other. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

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