After nearly two weeks of investigation into his Bay Area arrest, and a day after being cleared on charges of domestic violence, University of San Diego head basketball coach Lamont Smith has resigned.
The decision was communicated by university administrators to the campus community late Wednesday night.
In addition to announcing the decision, the statement from university president James Harris noted appreciation for Smith’s contributions to the basketball program during his three-year tenure as a Torero.
“Coach Smith elevated the level of competitiveness of our program, recruited an outstanding group of student-athletes, and established a strong foundation for future success,” the statement read.
The statement also encouraged continued prayers for everyone involved with the situation.
Smith’s resignation ends what has been a scandal-filled saga for the former head coach of late. The 42-year-old USD alum was originally arrested two Sundays ago at the Oakland International Airport on suspicion of involvement in a domestic violence dispute the night prior. He was charged with domestic violence, assault with force likely to commit great bodily injury, and false imprisonment, although all three charges were dropped yesterday by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
Despite the clearing of legal hurdles, Smith’s decision to step down suggests that there may be more to the situation than has been stated publicly, and the coach’s behavior warranted final decisions regarding Smith’s place at USD. Athletic director Bill McGillis, in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, emphasized that it was, in fact, Smith’s decision to step down.
“This was Lamont’s decision,” McGillis said. “I can’t speak for him on how he came to this decision, but he determined that it was the right decision and he offered his resignation and we accepted it.”
The coach had been on administrative leave since his arrest.
While his legacy with the program will certainly be stained by its controversial end, the Texas native’s first head coaching job at the college level will be remembered for its positive aspects as well. While winning hadn’t become a consistent occurrence yet, the Toreros had risen from a 9-21 mark in their first year under Coach Smith to an 18-13 record this season, the winningest campaign at Alcala Park in a decade.
The brand of basketball Smith brought to the Jenny Craig Pavilion, one founded on energy and gritty defense, also delivered a handful of signature wins, including a victory over crosstown rival San Diego State in 2015 and a decisive road win over Pac-12 foe Colorado this year. Close losses to West Coast Conference powerhouses St. Mary’s and Gonzaga this winter had Torero fans starting to see a return to regional prominence on the rapidly-approaching horizon.
Ultimately though, the moral questions surrounding Smith’s weekend in San Francisco overrule any positive steps on the basketball court, and it is with that in mind that USD will open its top basketball position for the second time in four years.
“I’m saddened for Lamont and his family,” McGillis told the U-T. “He recruited an exceptional group of young men, very talented players that are winners on and off the court. I’m grateful for that.”
“Our team is very optimistic about this basketball team and program. They believe and expressed they are on the brink of something special.”
McGillis will lead the school’s national search for a new head coach. He reportedly expects that acting head coach and former Smith assistant Sam Scholl will be considered for the position.
This story will be updated as more details become available.