In a school directory, James Smith may have been listed as Myrtle Beach High custodian and assistant basketball coach.
Ask anyone in the community, however, and they’ll tell you he served a much bigger purpose.
Smith died earlier this week. An exact date or cause of his death is currently unknown.
News of his untimely passing quickly spread around the school and the community at-large on Wednesday.
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“He was everything to our program,” said Myrtle Beach boys basketball coach Craig Martin. “Whatever you needed him to be, he was that.
“If needed to talk to a parent, he’d do that. If you needed him to wash (uniforms), he’d do that too. He was everything to our program — parents loved him, kids loved him and fellow coaches did too.”
Myrtle Beach student-athletes, coaches and athletic department personnel held a meeting early in the day to inform them of what had occurred. According to senior basketball standout Robert Swanson, all were taking Smith’s loss hard.
“(The meeting) was tough,” Swanson said. “He was such a big part of our program for 10+ years.”
Smith was a household name in Myrtle Beach athletics, primarily serving as boys assistant basketball coach until last year. He also had a hand in other duties, among them helping with track, cross country and even serving as operator of the famed cannon at Seahawks football games.
“When Myrtle Beach brought (the cannon) back, it was (Smith) who was the one shooting it off after touchdowns,” said former Myrtle Beach and Socastee boys hoops coach DeAndre Scott, who had Smith on his staff as an assistant during the Seahawks’ 2008 state title run. “When I say he was always around, he was always around. He’d do just about anything to help, and the community loved him for it — especially the kids.”
And that didn’t just go for Myrtle Beach High athletics … it was for local sports scene in general. According to Kevin Schneider of Big Shots, Smith played a pivotal role in the success of the locally-based basketball scouting and recruiting service.
“Today, Myrtle Beach lost a great ambassador for kids, a mentor to many and a genuine person who truly cared,” he said. “James was always supportive of coaches, players and community willing to do anything to make a situation better.
“We had him on our Big Shots staff nearly every year we had events in Myrtle Beach. He was a friend and will be missed.”
According to Martin, Smith’s loss creates an irreplaceable void.
“When I first came here, one of the first people (Scott) wanted me to meet was (Smith). He loved Myrtle Beach High School, he loved basketball, and most importantly he loved working with the kids.
“Not having him … people will say he will be missed but don’t understand just how much. We were friends, great friends . He was so loyal, so committed. You couldn’t ask for a better person to be around your program and want nothing in return.”
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced. As for efforts to recognize Smith, Martin said he will speak with his senior players and come up with a way to “make sure everyone knows how important he was” to the team.
“You have some people who make millions upon millions of dollars. They may have more money, but what was their worth in terms of making an impact on others,” the Myrtle Beach boys basketball coach said. “(Smith), the relationships he made, the people he touched … that is worth its weight in gold.”