The city of Columbus has been buzzing all week with the NCAA Women’s Final Four in town.
There have been a lot of big names in women’s basketball in town, of course, but one stands out: Katie Smith, a former Ohio State Buckeye who just found out she will be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Smith talked to NBC4 sports director Jerod Smalley on Saturday when she found out the big news, and headed to the NBC4 studios Sunday to talk about her career and the big news in her life.
Twenty-five years ago, Smith was playing in a Final Four game as a collegiate athlete. Now, she is facing her first head coaching job after an illustrious career that included three Olympic medals, two WNBA championships, and several collegiate and professional scoring records.
Smith also won ABL titles with the Columbus Quest, guiding that team to the only two championships in league history.
That second Quest title team never got a chance to receive its championship rings because the league folded, so coach Brian Agler spearheaded a movement to get those players their jewelry.
Smith and her teammates received them Saturday night at an event in front of a 1,000 fans. They held an autograph-signing, where Smith and her former Quest teammates basked in the adoration of their fans.
Smith said she is proud to be back in Columbus for the Final Four. She was certainly a popular figure among basketball fans young and old and said it’s been “a great thing” to see the women’s game continue to grow.
Smith said getting the call about being inducted was just “crazy.”
“You grow up in Logan, you play basketball because you love it, and all of a sudden you’re on the big stage,” she said. “It’s all this excitement and appreciation, and it’s really nice because it’s later in (my) career, so (I) really get to enjoy the experience.”
Smith reflected on what her induction will mean.
“You’re in exclusive company when you think of all the people that have coached, played, have given to this sport…it’s really unbelievable to think you did that and how people view you. You’re in the game, you’re playing, but does the outside see and respect what you do?” Smith said.
When she began playing, basketball leagues for women had not been formed. Smith knew she wanted to become an Olympian, which she did, and then thought she may become a dentist.
Her career counted, in part, on timing.
“Senior year came and then these leagues opened up and then it just took off,and I never would have expected basketball to be my career but sometimes your passion finds you and you roll with it,” she said.
Now, with her inaugural season as head coach of the New York Liberty approaching, Smith is looking forward to even more winning.
“I’m a baby on this side,” she said. “This is my first year as a head coach, so all the coaches in town, I’m trying to pick their brains and see what I can learn. But I would love to win a championship as a coach. That’s my next goal and try to do it with a lot of hard work and a respect for the game, and the players hopefully have a great journey like I’ve enjoyed.”
Smith adds that a career is all about being consistent, showing up every day, and working hard.
“I guess the biggest thing (is), bloom where you’re planted,” she said. “This lady did a talk and said that, and we’re not always exactly where we want to be, but you don’t always know that, so just show up every day and be the best you can where you’re at because good things are going to happen from there,” Smith said.