Rifle High School coaching legend Jack Smith, who passed away this past Saturday, will be honored in coming weeks by Rifle High School and the community throughout the valley.
On Thursday, Jan. 28, Rifle High School’s basketball teams will be joining with the area official’s association in their annual cancer awareness games. The games in the past have been played with teams and officials wearing pink or other colors to raise awareness for cancer. Players have gone into the stands at halftime to collect donations that were then sent to the national official’s association where they contributed all money to cancer research. This year, however, all donations received will go directly to Jack Smith’s family to help with medical and funeral costs.
Then on Saturday, Jan. 30, a memorial service will be held in the Rifle High School gymnasium to honor Coach Smith and the legacy he has left. The service is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. that day.
Finally on Feb. 9, there will be a dedication of the Rifle High School gymnasium to be renamed Jack Smith Gymnasium before the girls basketball game against Eagle Valley at 6 p.m.
Coach Smith came to Rifle as a teacher in 1967 and immediately became one of those few people that seem to make a difference in people’s lives everyday.
One of those affected by him was current Rifle boys’ basketball coach Roger Walters, who played for Smith when he attended Rifle High School in the 80’s.
As quoted in a Daily Sentinel article by Jon Mitchell, Walters said, “He was Mr. Rifle. School was always someplace you loved to go because he made every day so fun. He always got the best out of his kids. They wanted to work so hard for him. His smile was so contagious. He was the best-natured person I ever knew, and I was lucky enough to have him as a coach.”
Smith was an assistant football coach when Rifle won the Class AA state title in 1973. He was also an assistant baseball coach when the Bears won state championships in 1981 and 1985. He was also the head girls basketball coach when the team reached the Class 2A state title game in 1986.
He served as an assistant girls basketball coach at both Rifle High School and Coal Ridge high school and even helped out with the girls golf program this past spring.
According to Walters, who also coached the girls golf team this past spring, Smith would ride on the bus to tournaments and sit in the back of the bus and share all kinds of jokes that would get the girls laughing and giggling. The girls would even get him to sing, dance and take selfies or phone videos with them.
In addition to all the coaching he did, he was a stellar umpire for many years and was inducted to the Colorado Baseball Umpires Hall of Fame in 2011.
Current Rifle baseball coach Troy Phillips recalled Smith’s unique talent to take a tense situation and diffuse it with his humor.
“In the midst of some coach ranting and raving about a call, he would calmly settle the coach down, usually inserting some funny joke along the way, and before the coach headed back to the dugout, he would usually be smiling,” said Phillips. “He also always came to our pre-game conference with some Werther’s candies for each coach. I think he figured if we were sucking on the candy, we were much less likely to complain about his strike zone.”