ASHEBORO — Martin Smith was at the podium Saturday night talking about his family. A large crowd had gathered in the newly renovated Asheboro High School Gymnasium to honor the longtime coach as the school officially dedicated the new gym as Martin Smith Gymnasium.
While he talked about his wife, two sons and his grandchildren, he had to take a moment to compose himself.
His immediate family was there, located at different tables, but if you looked deep enough, you saw family at every single table in the gymnasium. Smith had that much of an impact on the student-athletes he coached.
“I never expected anything like this,” Smith said moments after the ceremony ended. “I enjoyed all the years I was here, 33, and coached most of those. Hopefully, there were some good things I did during that time. It was a wonderful place to teach and as long as you conducted yourself in good manner, they were really good to you as a coach.
“This thing tonight is beyond any expectation I had. They did a great job with it and it’s nice to hear someone say something nice about you. It’s so rewarding because you don’t realize at the time you made an impact. You always wonder if you did the right thing for each one of them.”
Smith did and behind the effort of people like current AHS basketball coach Brian Nance, the naming of the gymnasium was voted on by the Asheboro City Schools Board of Education last September and passed unanimously.
For good reasons.
During Smith’s career at AHS, he coached cross country, basketball and baseball. His cross country teams won 17 straight conference championships and AHS finished as state runners-up four times. At that time, all cross country teams from around the state were lumped into one classification. He was named the league coach of the year 14 times and he recorded more than 500 victories.
He coached basketball for 23 years over three stints, and accumulated more than 400 wins. He won the 1976 NCWHSAA title, had a 43-game winning streak, won eight conference championships, five conference tournaments and was named coach of the year six times.
His baseball teams won more than 250 games, six conference championships and he was named coach of the year five times. He captured the 1986 state 3-A baseball title. That title is the only boys state championship earned by an AHS boys team since the state high school’s two entities joined.
He was named a member of the AHS Hall of Fame in 2006.
“I didn’t expect it, but my eyes sure watered tonight,” Smith said. “When you hear someone like Lee Gavin say you had an impact on his life and Lee had everything going for him. He was such a good student, such a good family and for him to say this is a really good feeling.”
As a student-athlete at AHS, Smith earned all-conference in baseball three times and in basketball twice. He was a member of the 1959 WNCHSAA state basketball champions.
“He was really overwhelmed when we called him in September of last year and told him,” Nance said. “He couldn’t talk on the phone. When it went to the school board, he was going to speak like he did tonight, but he told us he just couldn’t do it. I think he was really excited.”
Many of his former players and assistant coaches honored Smith Friday night, including Gavin, Randy Beane, Chub Little, Frank Snyder, Craig York and Dr. Tim Allgood, who was enshrined into the AHS Hall of Fame the night before.
Smith said he kept hearing one piece of coaching advice from a member of the AHS football staff during his coaching tenure.
“I would be complaining about something and he would look at me and say it’s about the kids, it’s always about the kids and you’ll figure it out.”
Smith’s “kids” were indeed quite lucky.