Cade Smith has one more assignment before leaving Mustang Mountain.
Smith, 30, for five years the Central Arkansas Christian volleyball coach, six years assistant girls basketball coach and three years assistant boys basketball coach, will complete his CAC career as an assistant coach for the East volleyball squad for next week’s Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Week at the University of Central Arkansas.
After that, he heads to Huntsville, Ala., where he has accepted a position as assistant volleyball coach under Keith Giboney at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.
"CAC has been great," Smith said. "It’s just a really good place, a place I care a lot about. I got to work with good people."
His final CAC assignment will be one to remember as he gets to coach Logan Tolbert, his star middle hitter, one more time before she goes off to Southern Arkansas University and before he heads to UAH.
"To get to experience that with her is definitely an honor," he said. "It’s good because the coaches in the state vote on it, but I think it’s more of a testament to the team. They played well and it puts the coaches in a good light."
The process for selection of coaches was that each conference chooses one nominee. Following the state championship in each sport, a preliminary vote for all the nominees is held to whittle the list to seven. A second vote yields the head coach (whoever receives the most votes) and the assistants (the next highest totals).
Smith, 30, from Paragould, said he was looking forward to the opportunity to work with good coaches. Vicki Gatewood of Nettleton is the head coach of the East; Melissa Williams of Piggott and Craig Cummings of Jonesboro will complete the staff.
"There’s a lot of experience in that group, so it will be fun to get to hang around with them, and getting to watch the girls experience that will be pretty cool, too," Smith said.
Another perk will be the chance to coach Emily Giboney, the Harding Academy All-Star who is Keith Giboney’s daughter. Smith worked as a graduate assistant under Giboney at Harding University in 2005 before arriving at Mustang Mountain in 2007.
"I knew I really liked volleyball, and I enjoyed coaching and wanted to get into that," Smith said. "I liked basketball, too, so I was flexible."
Giboney took the Huntsville job late in 2012.
"He and I have talked about the possibility of me working for him quite a few times over the years," Smith said. "He’s one of my closest friends, and when that job came available, he kept me posted. When it looked like talks were getting more serious and the job came with a full-time assistant, I got involved in the conversation pretty seriously."
Giboney said Smith was a perfect fit for the UAH slot.
"He is very smart and capable," Giboney said. "We are extremely compatible in our coaching philosophies and off the court. I hope to bring the program back to being a conference contender, and Cade will be a big part of that. Coaching at CAC has given him valuable experience. He was a graduate assistant for me in the past, so I know he will adjust to the college game and recruiting quickly."
Doug Killgore, CAC’s athletic director, said he wished Smith nothing but the best as he begins his new adventure.
"He has been a great asset to the CAC community and a good friend to me," Killgore said. "Cade is keenly aware of the CAC mission, totally respects and has the respect of the kids and will leave a good many hard-to-fill gaps with his move.
"He completely invested himself in the success of any activity in which he was involved, always displaying a love for the Lord and His work. He set an outstanding example of hard work and high expectations all tempered with generous concern for his students and athletes.
"There will always be a cold Diet Coke waiting for him on Mustang Mountain."
Smith said in particular he would miss working under Steve Quattlebaum, the long-time Lady Mustang basketball coach who spent the last three years doing double duty with the boys team. Smith served as Quattlebaum’s assistant for both squads.
"I’m going to hate not getting to work with Coach Q again," he said. "We’ve been really close for six years, and I’ve learned a lot from him about how to coach girls. He does a good job keeping things in perspective, knowing what’s important."
Chief among those lessons?
"He can be hard on his players, but they still want to talk to him after the game’s over," Smith said. "That’s a sign of a really good coach. I’m going to miss that."
Quattlebaum said Smith’s skills would be missed.
"He did a great job the last six years," he said. "At a time when we really needed a lot of help, he came in and had such a good relationship with the kids, which is the most important thing. They all liked him and respected him, and his good organizational skills helped me."
Smith said it was tough watching Q and the Lady Mustangs board a bus recently for a team camp at Ouachita Baptist University.
"They’ve been a big part of my life for a while, and the school is just great — good people, good kids," he said. "I’m definitely better for having been there and I hope something good will come to the school because I was there. I’ll miss it but I’m looking forward to the next challenge."
Despite the move, he will continue with his studies at Harding toward an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. He’ll lack three courses after this summer, which he will complete with work through next summer before tackling the dissertation.
He said he wasn’t quite sure where his long-term future would be.
"There are so many things I think I would say yes to," he said. "I’ve always wanted to give college coaching a try; I’ve always wanted to teach in college, and this is a chance to be able to get some experience and do that. Once I finish my doctorate, we’ll see where it goes from there.
"I still like coaching — I think that’s still a big part of who I am — but down the road I think I can see myself doing lots of things, maybe teaching in college, maybe moving back into administration at the high school level."
And who knows? That Diet Coke will be waiting for him at Mustang Mountain.