Rio Grande Valley Vipers president Bert Garcia said Monday afternoon that the Houston Rockets have hired Nevada Smith to be the Vipers’ next head coach. Awesome name!
Smith spent the last two years at NCAA Division III Keystone College in Pennsylvania, where guided the Giants to a 39-16 overall record, a 27-9 mark in conference play, and two-straight appearances in the CSAC Championship Game.
Under Coach Smith’s guidance last season, Keystone posted an 18-10 overall record including their first-ever victory over a nationally-ranked opponent as the Giants defeated 16th-ranked Scranton in December. The Giants would go on to post a 13-5 mark in conference play before reaching the CSAC Championship Game for the second straight year. Three players would earn All-CSAC honors including sophomore Duncan Lunsford, who was a First Team selection before being named to the D3hoops.com All-Middle Atlantic Region Third Team. Additionally, five players earned a spot on the CSAC All-Academic Team while Coach Smith was selected as the recipient of the Keystone Coaches Sportsmanship Award and also was named to the NIC All-Fraternity All-American Basketball Team – Coaches Honor Roll alongside greats including Rick Pitino (Louisville), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), and Brad Stevens (Butler).
Prior to joining Keystone College, Smith spent five years as an assistant coach at Ithaca College, where the Bombers saw their best five year stretch in program history. Ithaca ompiled a mark of 96-40, claiming three Empire 8 regular season championships in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and two NCAA Tournament berths in 2009 and 2011.
Smith replaces Nick Nurse, who led the Vipers to an NBA Development League championship last season before accepting an assistant coaching position with the Toronto Raptors this summer. The last two Vipers head coach, Nurse and Chris Finch, who also led the team to a D-League championship, have gone on to NBA jobs following their stay with Rio Grande Valley. Finch is now an assistant coach with the Rockets.