UPDATE (2/26/18, 2:32 p.m. PST): The University of San Diego announced today that Smith will be placed on administrative leave until further notice. In the announcement, the school states that “Our values as a faith-based institution call upon us to proceed with justice and compassion. Our prayers are for all those who are impacted by this situation.” The university has opened an investigation. Assistant coach Sam Scholl will take over as acting head coach during the rest of the team’s season, which is still expected to include a postseason tournament of some sort.
It is easy to conjure up the good memories. Returning to his alma mater to return it to prominence. Urging on his players as they embodied his personality on the court. Personally thanking members of a burgeoning fan base after games.
How quickly things can go very, very wrong.
News broke Sunday night that third-year head coach, Lamont Smith, a Torero alum, was arrested at Oakland International Airport Sunday on domestic violence charges. The team was set to fly home after capping an 18-win season with a tight win Saturday over WCC opponent San Francisco.
According to reports, officers were dispatched to the team hotel last night following word of a domestic violence disturbance. The victim, a woman who claimed to be intimately involved with Smith, was taken to the hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Smith was consequently arrested at the airport and charged with domestic violence, assault with force likely to commit great bodily injury, and false imprisonment. He was reportedly released on $115,000 bail.
It’s the kind of news that mercilessly punches you in the gut, disheartening and upsetting on so many levels that it starts to make one’s head spin trying to comprehend it all.
First (and obviously, least consequential): the basketball side of things. USD had just begun to garner some insider appeal among college basketball junkies, riding a brand of basketball that thrived on defense and grit to one of the program’s best seasons in recent memory. The Toreros had made West Coast giants like St. Mary’s and Gonzaga sweat while toppling tournament contenders like Grand Canyon, Colorado, and New Mexico State.
Now, the team will likely head into its WCC tournament match-up with BYU this coming Thursday without its head coach. Furthermore, Smith’s likely firing if these allegations prove true will rock a program that was just beginning to re-establish itself, breaking down any progress that had been made over the previous 36 months.
Of course though, in situations like this, the circumstances stretch so obviously beyond basketball that talking about basketball feels almost uncomfortable.
On one hand, it is yet another off-the-court blow to a program still climbing out from under the shadows of a 2008 points-shaving scandal.
On the other, it is especially damaging to Smith’s wife and two daughters. While details remain scarce at this point, reports certainly imply an affair, which would have obvious and immediate ramifications for the entire family, regularly seen in the stands of the Jenny Craig Pavilion cheering on the hometown team.
The university released a statement shortly after the news broke, stating “We are aware of the report of allegations related to Lamont Smith. We have very few details at the time, but we will be gathering information and will be commencing an investigation into the matter.” USD’s athletic director has confirmed the arrest.
Ultimately, no matter the final bullet points, the overarching theme is a dark one for USD athletics and its basketball program. In an evening, Smith appears to have let down not only his players and coaching staff, but also his family and campus community.
In short: it is the worst kind of disappointing.
More details to follow.
Noah is a current undergraduate at the University of San Diego. In addition to his classes as a Business Economics student, Noah serves as the scouting director for the nationally-ranked USD baseball team and as an NFL correspondent with The Mighty 1090. You can follow him on Twitter @thebackseatlamp