Prairie girls basketball seeks coach ... again

Mike Smith resigns from program after just one season

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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When he took the job, Mike Smith said he hoped he would be the coach of the Prairie girls basketball team for many, many years.

It turned out, he lasted one season.

Smith resigned Friday, meaning the most decorated girls basketball program in the state is looking for a new coach again.

photoMike Smith was 21-4 as head coach at Prairie.

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"I felt it was in my best interest to step aside and let someone else see if they can do a better job," Smith said.

"This is 100 percent his decision," said Travis Drake, Prairie's athletic director.

Drake said he had an end-of-the-season review with Smith — which he does with all of his coaches — and together they talked about the successes as well as areas of growth.

Smith declined to go into details of the meeting but said that meeting was a factor in his decision.

"I'm disappointed," Drake said. "He said he wanted to be the coach for a long time. That's what I wanted as well. Constant turnover is not a good thing."

Smith took over for Al Aldridge, who won 710 games and six state championships in his 32 seasons at Prairie. Aldridge resigned after the 2011-12 season — a state championship season. Smith and Drake both said that it would be a tough task for any person to take over for Aldridge.

The Falcons had a successful season for most programs, but not necessarily for them.

Prairie kept its league streak alive. The Falcons have now won 156 consecutive league games. They also won the district championship.

"I really enjoyed the girls I worked with this year," Smith said, adding that those accomplishments, along with the 21-4 record, were special considering it was a transition year.

While the team did reach the round of 16, Prairie lost in the regionals and failed to make it to the state tournament for the first time since 1997.

"I know we came a game short of where we wanted to be," Smith said.

"It's not an easy job. Everyone knew that," Drake said. "The reality is it's not fair to be compared to a guy who had 30 years to build a program."

Smith said he understood the pressure coming into the job but he did not let that bother him.

Drake said if he had to do it again, he would make the same decision because Smith is such an "outstanding guy with high quality character."

The Battle Ground School District has posted the opening.

"We want to respond fairly quickly," Drake said. "More importantly, we want to get a person in there who wants to be the coach for the foreseeable future. I'm more interested in making sure we get the right fit."