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One of the NBA’s top rebounders in the 1980s, Larry Smith will always be affectionately known as Mr. Mean in Warriors circles. The 1981 All-Rookie Team selection spent his first nine NBA seasons in a Warriors uniform and his all-out hustle and workmanlike play endeared him to Bay Area basketball fans. He ranks third in franchise history with 6,440 rebounds – behind only Nate Thurmond and Wilt Chamberlain – and was among the NBA’s top six in rebounding five times over his first seven seasons. Smith was a part of two playoff teams with the Warriors, including the 1986-87 squad for which he averaged 10.3 points and 13.7 rebounds. Among the franchise leaders in games played, total minutes and blocked shots, Smith finished his Warriors career with averages of 8.5 points and 10.4 rebounds.
Warriors.com (DotCom):What is keeping you busy these days? Larry Smith (LS): As of right now, I’m working at Alcorn State University. I’m the athletic development director there and that’s pretty much what I’m doing these days and it definitely keeps me busy.
DotCom:How nice is it to go back home and help out? LS: It’s ok, but I still miss the Bay Area very much.
DotCom:You’ve coached in the NBA, NCAA, WNBA and the D-League. Do you miss coaching? LS: Yes! I really do. I miss the grind, I miss working with the young people. That’s something that I love to do and I definitely miss it right now … I love the coaching aspect of the game and I love working with young people. It’s a thrill for me to be a part of it for so many years. It’s something that I will always treasure.
DotCom:You had a fantastic college career. Did you know you would play in the NBA? LS: No. The NBA at that time was not on my agenda at all. I just loved the college game; I loved what I did at the time. My main focal point at that stage was graduating from college and that’s what I did. The NBA was a plus and God has really blessed me to give me an opportunity to play in it. It was not on the agenda at the time, but everything has worked out well for me and I’m just happy that I had an opportunity to play in the NBA.
DotCom:You were the 24th selection in the 1980 NBA Draft. What do you remember about that day? LS: I was home in Mississippi with my mom and my attorney gave me a call and told me I had been chosen by the Golden State Warriors. At the time, I was speechless. I said “This couldn’t possibly happen to me.” It was one of the greatest times of my life and I’m just so happy that I had an opportunity to play for the Warriors over the years.
DotCom:What motivated you to reach the level of play that you did? LS: Through my whole high school and junior high career, everyone always told me that I was too small to do the job. One thing I learned over the years was that I would never let anybody outwork me. That was my strong suit. That kept me competitive and that carried me onto the NBA.
DotCom:What was your role on those first Warriors team that you played for? LS: We had tremendous players on that team. There was not a whole lot of shots for me, but I knew if I just get on the glass and stay consistent on the glass, I was going to have a chance to play. Thank God it worked out for me.
DotCom:In all the years that you’ve been around basketball, have you ever seen a shot like Purvis Short’s? LS: Shortman had that rainbow jumper. It was just consistent, it was pretty. I have never seen anybody have a beautiful shot, but his shot was beautiful.
DotCom:What was your first impression of Alvin Attles? LS: He scared me to death. He had this really, really deep voice. I was just afraid of him, but he turned out to be one of the greatest guys you ever want to meet. I love him to death and I’m just so proud that I had an opportunity to play for him … He knew I had a good work ethic. That’s what made the difference for me. I know I wasn’t the greatest offensive player, but I knew that I could do a lot of other things to get me playing time. He saw it in me and he saw it every single day. Him being the kind of guy that he is today, if you’re going to play hard for him and do the little things, you’re going to have an opportunity to play.
DotCom:After your rookie season, did you get the feeling that you belonged in the NBA? LS: It was a great feeling for me. I just wanted to have an opportunity to play. That’s what I love to do – I love playing the game. It was fun for me and getting a chance to play in the league was an honor. It was a great situation, I had the opportunity to meet tremendous people, got a lot of chances to travel and the money wasn’t bad either.
DotCom:You already were known as “Mr. Mean” when you came to Golden State. How did you get that nickname? LS: I got that name from my college’s sports information director, which was Gus Howard at the time. I got the name from him because he said I never ever smiled. It was always like I was mad all the time, which I thought was very untrue because I’m an easygoing guy.
DotCom:Over the course of your Warriors career, the fans really attached to you. What did you think the first time you saw the section of fans wearing hardhats in your honor? LS: My first thought was, “Wow.” It was unbelievable. I got really, really teary-eyed because it was so much of an honor for people to really appreciate the little things you did. There are no better fans than the Warriors fans. They were tremendous to me. They supported me throughout my whole career. If I played lousy, they still supported me. I always tell my friends about the fans there. Out of all the places I’ve been, Warriors fans are the best fans in the NBA.
DotCom:Did you take pride in being a great rebounder? LS: I had the opportunity to play with a lot of guys in the collegiate and professional ranks. Everybody wants to score – who doesn’t want to score? But at the end of the day, rebounding gives you an opportunity to win games. That’s something that I really took pride in, I really worked hard at it and I became pretty good at it. I really enjoy what I did – I enjoyed my craft to its fullest.
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