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Dave Smart announced as head coach of the Pacific Tigers

Pacific basketball welcomes the seventh Canadian coach in NCAA Division I history: Dave Smart aims to revive the Tigers.

Dave Smart, former head coach of the Carleton Ravens, brings his winning expertise to the Pacific Tigers
Dave Smart, former head coach of the Carleton Ravens, brings his winning expertise to the Pacific Tigers - Illustrations: Edilson J. Silva

Dave Smart, the seventh Canadian-born head coach in NCAA Division I history, has been appointed to lead the Pacific Tigers men’s basketball team.

Smart’s impressive resume boasts a legendary career at Carleton University, where he transformed the Ravens from a struggling program into a powerhouse.

Throughout his remarkable 19 seasons at the helm, the 58-year-old Smart, a 9-time U Sports Coach of the Year, cemented his legacy by guiding the Carleton Ravens to a staggering eleven Ontario University Association (OUA) conference titles and 13 U national championships, including an impressive five-peat from 2003 to 2007 and a dominant six-year championship run from 2011 to 2017.

With nothing left to prove at the university level, Smart retired with an unbelievable 656-101 (.867%) overall record, including a more than respectable 42-52 (44.6%) mark against NCAA Division I teams, boasting victories over powerhouses like Alabama, Wisconsin, Texas Christian, Memphis (2x), Baylor, and Cincinnati.

His dominance extended beyond his head coaching tenure. Even while serving as Director of Basketball Operations, the Ravens continued their championship success, adding two more national titles to the program’s trophy case. This brings the total number of championships won during Smart’s association with the Ravens to 15 (or 16 if you include the 2015-16 sabbatical year).

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That season, despite consistent success and inquiries from NCAA teams, Smart seriously considered leaving Carleton. However, his deep loyalty to the program and a desire to prioritize his family ultimately led him to take a one-year break instead.

Smart found unwavering support and continued to cultivate a basketball dynasty at the institution that granted him his first major coaching opportunity in 1999, after his alma mater, Queen’s University, failed to fully embrace his vision for success.

Carleton Ravens head coach Dave Smart instructing his team from the sidelines. The Ravens turned a tied game into the blow-out, beating the Wichita State Shockers 100-75 in CIS/NCAA basketball preseason action
Carleton Ravens head coach Dave Smart instructing his team from the sidelines. The Ravens turned a tied game into the blow-out, beating the Wichita State Shockers 100-75 in CIS/NCAA basketball preseason action – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

A New Challenge Awaits

Recognized as one of the most respected basketball minds in the world, Smart takes the reins as Pacific’s fourth head coach since 2013.

The Tigers haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament since then, with previous coaches Ron Verlin (38-55, 2013-16), Damon Stoudamire (71-77, 2016-21), and Leonard Perry (29-65) unable to recapture past glory.

Notably, the program has produced eight NBA players, including former number one overall pick Michael Olowokandi (1998, Los Angeles Clippers).

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This recent stretch of struggles stands in stark contrast to the program’s rich history. Following a disastrous 6-26 season that concluded with a 17-game losing streak, the Tigers embarked on a national coaching search to find a leader who could rebuild the program. They believe they’ve found that leader in Dave Smart.

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Dave Smart’s Winning Formula

Smart’s success can be attributed to his highly disciplined playing style and his ability to consistently defeat high-calibre competition. This past season at Texas Tech, Smart served as an assistant coach and played a key role in the Red Raiders’ remarkable turnaround.

After a disappointing prior year, Texas Tech finished the 2023-24 season with a stellar 23-11 overall record (11-7 in a loaded Big 12 Conference), culminating in an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Tigers are hopeful that Smart can replicate that success and usher in a new era of winning basketball in Stockton, California.

Smart himself expressed his excitement for the challenge: “I am thrilled with the opportunity to lead the Tigers into a new era,” Smart said in a press release. “Adam (Tschuor) and President (Christopher) Callahan have an ambitious and exciting vision for the program, and I thank them for entrusting me with the task of bringing that vision to life.”

Texas tech assistant coach dave smart walks off the court with former player kerwin walton
Dave Smart walks off the court with former Texas Tech Red Raiders player Kerwin Walton – Photo: Texas Tech Athletics/Twitter/X

A Growing Canadian NCAA Coaching Presence

It’s worth noting that Smart’s arrival at Pacific signifies a growing trend of Canadian coaches making their mark in NCAA Division I basketball.

He joins James Naismith (Kansas), Pete Newell (San Francisco, Michigan State, California), Richie Spears (San Diego State Women’s), Paul Weir (New Mexico), Maurice Joseph (George Washington) and Chris Kraus (Stonehill) as Canadian-born coaches who have reached the highest level of collegiate basketball in the United States.

Additionally, Canada’s coaching presence extends beyond the head coaching ranks, with assistant coaches like Joseph (now at Butler University), Jamie McNeilly (at Texas Christian), and Manny Dosanjh (at Western Michigan) making significant contributions.

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Looking Ahead: Maple Madness Era?

Smart’s coaching pedigree speaks for itself. Now, he’ll have the opportunity to apply his winning formula to a NCAA program in need of a turnaround.

Could this be the start of a “Maple Madness” era for Pacific basketball?

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Smart’s familiarity with the Canadian basketball scene, coupled with the allure of playing for a coach who understands their culture and style, could make the Tigers a more attractive destination for top Canadian players, including those seeking a fresh start through the 2024 transfer portal.

With his proven track record, a talented coaching staff, and a clear vision for the future, the Pacific Tigers faithful have reason for optimism as they enter a new era under the leadership of Dave Smart.

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