Three years ago, Kyle Smithpeters got his chance to move up to Division I level.
The head coach of John A. Logan Community College was courted by a certain Dennis Gates, then head coach of Cleveland State.
The timing, Smithpeters told the Tribune on Thursday, was not the right time. This decision was different in 2022.
Missouri officially announced it hired Smithpeters Thursday afternoon. Gates, after a few years, finally got his guy, who fits his ideology and brings a decade of head coaching experience to the United bench.
“Coach Gates’ ideology and mine go hand in hand,” Smithpeters said. “Take care of the kids, treat them the right way, do things the right way.”
Smithpeters is the third assistant coach to sit on the Missouri bench.
First, Charlton Young was hired as an associate head coach. Dickey Nutt was the next recruit. Smithpeters was last, but certainly not least, as he showed what Gates wants in his assistant coaches.
Smithpeters spent 10 seasons, with four more as an assistant, at John A. Logan. He has had eight seasons of 20 or more wins, which would have been nine if COVID-19 had not canceled the rest of the 2020 season.
During this decade, Smithpeters said he had many opportunities to leave for more important jobs.
What makes the move to MU these days okay is how Smithpeters views his experience, as well as the position John A. Logan finds himself in when he leaves.
“I left Logan better than I found him,” Smithpeters said. “I just think it was really the timing, the situation, everything was pretty much perfect. I have 10 years as a head coach under my belt and I felt like I grew up.”
Smithpeters paces his 10 years of coaching experience with experience as a player in Southern Illinois, where he was on the 2005 and 2006 NCAA Saluki Tournament teams, and his experience as an assistant coach.
He spent a year at Missouri State under Paul Lusk after four years as an assistant to John A. Logan.
This experience plays directly into why Smithpeters is suited to be one of Gates’ assistants. He knows the specific tasks he can do to help Gates, even if it only lightens his to-do list.
“I like the ability to tone down some of these things on the floor, on the floor,” Smithpeters said. “What Dennis has done in such a short time to Mizzou by himself is just miraculous.”
Gates recruited much of the 2022-23 roster himself. It’s impressive because most programs do it with staff together.
Now, with his team together, Gates and United can start focusing on more than just recruiting a squad for ’22-’23.
Smithpeters, Young, and Nutt can plan a recruiting summer where they head to different storefronts, identify targets for upcoming recruiting classes, and begin building the pieces for the upcoming season.
While recruiting is certainly the most important aspect of an assistant coach’s job, Smithpeters said he and the other assistants need to be on the same page to fuel the team’s chemistry.
Smithpeters said Gates is a family coaching type and has organized his staff to prioritize that team camaraderie. That’s imperative with a team that will have nine new players next season with Jarron “Boogie” Coleman entering the transfer portal on Friday.
“When the leader of the group does those things and builds those kinds of relationships, I think that reverberates,” Smithpeters said. “The important thing is that they’re not just good players. They’re really good kids.”
This fits Smithpeters’ coaching style, which he says is characterized by adaptability.
Over the years at John A. Logan, where he helped junior athletes practice their talents in order to reach a higher level of basketball, he said he was able to adapt his styles to those talents.
One reason for that is the way he executed adaptive offenses, which are an NBA style of offense using gun action sets that rely on guards doing different reads on where to go with the basketball.
Smithpeters has a familiarity beyond Gates, as his point guard at John A. Logan, Sean East, will be Missouri’s point guard next season.
But Smithpeters wants to get to know United beyond the pitch. He said he views his position in Missouri as somewhere he will be for the long haul.
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Smithpeters even said he wanted Columbia natives to say hello and help him catch up on basketball in Missouri as well as the city he will soon call home.
This sets him up for the next step in his career, which is to revive Missouri men’s basketball. So far, Smithpeters sees a great base to start with.
“We have very good pieces in play, player-wise, to be able to have a balanced offense,” Smithpeters said. “It’s very, very important to being able to establish an offense that will work through the SEC and throughout the season.”
Chris Kwiecinski is the sports editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune, overseeing sports coverage for the University of Missouri and Boone County. Follow him on Twitter @OchoK_ and contact him at [email protected] or 573-815-1857.