Why the Detroit Pistons are promoting Shae Smith for Jr. NBA coach of the year

Shae Smith
Shae Smith
Brian Sevald (NBAE/Getty)
by Vince Ellis
Special for Pistons.com

The Detroit Pistons nominee for Jr. NBA coach of the year had to give up playing basketball because of a heart condition.

The diagnosis came during Shae Smith’s freshman year at Concordia College.

She couldn’t walk away, which led to her next act, becoming a youth basketball coach and trainer before turning 21.

Smith said it’s not a major reach.

“The only difference is I can’t physically put the ball in the hoop,” she said with a laugh.

“I’m still yelling, I’m still communicating, I’m still interacting, I’m still making sure my boys have water. I’m still having every quality of a basketball player except putting the ball in the hoop.”

Smith, who lives in Detroit and volunteered for the Pistons’ inaugural 3-on-3 tournament held last summer at Little Caesars Arena, needs your vote.

Smith is one of eight semifinalists up for the honor as part of Coach Appreciation Week, which ends Sunday.

You can vote here https://nbaworld.jebbit.com/lqpzpjpd?L=Twitter&JC=Pistons.

Voting is also available by following the Pistons on Twitter and retweeting when the organization promotes her candidacy throughout the week.

 Smith has been coaching for three years, starting in the AAU ranks and she spent last season as a student assistant at Madonna College, where she transferred.

She came across the Pistons radar when the franchise was creating promotional material for its “Basketball For All” community outreach program created after the return to downtown Detroit after leaving the Palace.

Officials were attracted to her story since she was able to overcome a challenging upbringing before playing basketball at Redford Union and Livonia Churchill, where she graduated in 2017.

She is the subject of an autobiographical video that tells her story. It has yet to be released publicly, but it’s moved members of the organization.

She started Oleta One Basketball to instruct young basketball players and she works at a local basketball facility. She is still teaching clients through video conferencing technology.

Aaron Smith, director of youth engagement and development, was introduced to Smith by Alicia Jeffreys, vice president of brand strategy, at the 3-on-3 tournament.

“She did a great job and was very comfortable in her role,” Aaron Smith said. “From there, we just looked for any opportunities that we had from the standpoint of clinics we were specifically having in Detroit.”

The plan was to hire her to work Pistons youth camps this spring, but the COVID-19 crisis postponed her being involved more.

“After hearing her story, quite frankly, she is someone you root for based on her history and her background,” Aaron Smith said.

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