published Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Kim Smith embraces new Chatt State role

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    Kim Smith, Chattanooga State athletic director
    Photo by Ron Bush /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Kim Smith had a full day at Chattanooga State on Saturday. She got there well before the 1 p.m. softball scrimmage to make sure things were lined up for that and the 2 p.m. basketball doubleheader, and she went back and forth between the two campus facilities until basketball was done and she could take softball Wall of Fame honoree Charmaine Johns to dinner.

As the athletic director for nearly three weeks, Smith now is responsible for a lot more than her full load of five physical education lecture classes.

And so far she's loving it. The former Kim Weems, a Greeneville (Tenn.) High School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Carson-Newman College basketball guard, has gone back to her roots.

Smith came to Chattanooga State in 1989 as the women's basketball coach, from Andy Landers' staff at Georgia, and served three years in that position. She became the athletic director in 1990 and continued in that role until '98. Motherhood led her to ask for a teaching-only position, but she soon was back helping with athletics as the department's academic adviser.

She did that until three years or so ago, but since then she had stayed out of the school's athletic business despite her office being near the coaches' quarters in the gym. She had stayed active in sports, though: With two daughters now in the eighth and sixth grades, she has been a summer fastpitch softball coach for nearly a decade, and the week she took over as AD again she played golf with baseball coach Greg Dennis for the third year in Chatt State's intramural fundraiser.

Going to the baseball alumni day on Oct. 27 was her first official appearance as AD, although she had attended the Oct. 19 meeting with the softball players when they were told that coaches Beth Keylon-Randolph and Steve Jaecks were leaving and new head coach Blythe Golden was introduced.

Jaecks had been the AD, and Smith took over on his official departure to help Keylon-Randolph at East Carolina University.

In addition to the ceremony Saturday for Johns, the 2012 softball team was honored for its national championship, complete with a sign on the outfield fence and a permanent bronze plaque including the names of all the players. And all of them were present for the unveiling, Smith said.

"It was a great event," she said.

While she is waiting until the spring semester for relief on her teaching load -- "I still want to be in the classroom; I love teaching," she said -- she wasted no time jumping back into her new old role.

She surprised Jay Price, who coaches both basketball teams, by having a lot of details taken care of for their Nov. 3 home openers before he even brought them up.

"I like her energy. She hit the ground running, trying to get a lot of things done," Price said. "We've had a really good relationship in my 10 years here, and I think we really believe in the same things about working with kids -- trying to help them as far as we can but also pushing them to do the right things."

Said Dennis: "I have known Kim since I got here, and she has been nothing but helpful and professional in everything she has done with me. I am sure she will work to get this department where we all feel it needs to be, and her vision is a great one for everyone involved in our department."

Price took both his teams to national tournaments two years ago, and Dennis has had his baseball Tigers ranked No. 1 in the country and playing in the NJCAA World Series, so Smith sees her role as helping outstanding coaches focus on their main jobs without having to fret about background details.

"I just want to make things more efficient, more unified and more productive with everyone on board," she said, praising the support she already has received from president Jim Catanzaro and dean Anne Carroll on down. That includes business office, security, custodial and secretarial personnel as well as the coaches, she noted.

"Coach Price, Coach Dennis and Coach Golden have all rolled up their sleeves and worked together," Smith said. "I've just been steering the ship. When you have all these people on the ship working with you, it makes your job easy. They've all been incredible.

"Yes, there have been headaches to deal with, which is to be expected, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to get back involved with college athletics. It's something I love and have a passion for. There have been a few days when I've come home and just been exhausted, but that was a great feeling."

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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