Column: Smith Center: not pretty, functional

OK freshmen, it’s time for some pre-season training. You should get familiar with the Smith Center, it will require your attention soon.

The Smith Center is that sunken square-like building on 21st and G streets. It’s across the street from some fraternity houses, and it couldn’t be much uglier. To be fair, it’s not known or appreciated for its aesthetic value. It’s known for basketball. It’s not supposed to be pretty, just functional.

Other sports compete there. But nothing draws like basketball. The men’s team usually draws near capacity crowds, or about 5,000 people. The team is going through the process of a makeover now. It will make its debut in November, but that might not be too pretty.

In May, Karl Hobbs took over as head coach after Tom Penders stepped down amid off-court troubles with his team. Things have been quiet since Hobbs took over. Too quiet. It took more than a month before Hobbs made his first move. Finally, on June 5 he made the announcement everybody was waiting for: he hired Steve Pikiell, five-year assistant coach out of Central Connecticut State University.

Then, with everybody recovering from the shock that move created, Hobbs announced Darrio Scott has signed. And he could soon hire another assistant coach, Kevin Broadus of American University. Broadus is a good hiring because he specializes in local talent. Plus he owns a hair salon in D.C., which always helps things.

But the hiring of Broadus and Pikiell raises questions. Hobbs previsouly said he wanted an assistant with collegiate head coaching experience. Why didn’t he hire one? Where is the wisdom he said he wanted? And why did he wait so long?

All three coaches have a tough year ahead of them. The team is working without last year’s main component, SirValiant Brown. Brown is making the leap to the National Basketball Association. Even if he goes unselected, he has said he will not return to GW. Attila Cosby awaits a court hearing before he finds out his fate with the Colonials. Without him, the team could be short players. Right now, the team only has 10 on roster, just enough to run a full scrimmage in practice.

We can expect Hobbs to bring in two more recruits. Hobbs is known for his recruiting skills at the University of Connecticut, so he may persuade players to join an uncertain team. He’s got charisma. He showed it off at his press conference. Hobbs poked fun at GW administrators and told funny stories. Then he got serious and said he’d win some ballgames.

With the addition of Darrio Scott, T.J. Thompson and Tamal Forchion, Hobbs has two scholarships remaining. Right now he has a good freshman class. But if a couple players suffer injuries, can the freshmen be called on to step more than they are ready for? It is late in the summer to expect to get top recruits.

Whatever happens with the men’s basketball season, Hobbs will recognize his role to discipline his team so last year’s embarrassments do not happen again.

As for the women, their fate is pretty predictable. They’ll win (quietly) and earn yet another berth to the NCAA Tournament. Sadly, very few of you will see it happen because you just won’t care.

Women’s head coach Joe McKeown made some noise in the off-season. One day after Penders stepped down, GW offered the men’s coaching position to him. McKeown kept interest alive for a couple weeks. Maybe that was enough to generate interest in the team.

McKeown wants to remain loyal to his program. You can’t blame him. This season the team will probably win at least 20 games, and the women have the sixth-best recruiting class in the country, according to USA Today.

I urge you to take an interest in the Smith Center. It may not be the prettiest building around, but I suppose it’s what is inside that counts.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.