Bev Smith theory

Last Spring when the University of Oregon fired Bev Smith as head basketball coach, readers here commented that they were not surprised, as it had been alleged for years that the native Canadian was a racist. I hadn’t heard this, so I was surprised.

I asked my former junior high school teacher about it. I’ve known Jane for 30 years, and she’s an amazing person, teacher and an upstanding and intelligent person. She’s also been a U of O season ticket holder for the last decade. So if anyone would know what’s the drillio, it would be her.

Jane asked around, and she thought about it for a long time. So long, in fact, that we just finally discussed it this past weekend. She said she’d ascertained that Smith wasn’t a racist, but that her actions could easily be interpreted as such.

Some of the players who have come to the U of O over the years cut their teeth on pickup ball. Learned and played the game in their neighborhoods from friends, siblings, cousins, etc. Jane said that Mac Court crowds LOVED players like that, and would stand up and make noise when they did their thing. But Smith, she explained, was from the school of regimented play, where ballers just straight-out played the game, sans flair. She didn’t want the Ducks to do anything but play the game.

“Instead of accommodating individual styles, she wanted all the players to fit a certain mold,” Jane said. “She just wanted them to play regimented, white girl ball.”


So that’s Jane’s take on it. I wonder what others think.

Are there coaches out there like that? How should coaches coach the game?


  1. Sue,

    I'm the friend of a former player of Smith's that commented on your initial blog post about Bev Smith.

    I wanted to add that it wasn't simply the concept of playing style that was at issue with the AA players. It was the language, it was the attitude she used. My friend said that she doesn't remember "white girl ball" but did hear "jungle ball" on a regular, daily basis. And it didn't stop there. According to her, it was the way they spoke, the way they dressed, the music they listened to that irked Smith. Smith's coaching duties were mixed up with "white man's burden." They might have been in college, but these were still vulnerable and easily influenced young ladies. When you have an authority figure essentially saying to one group that everything you do is wrong, there's going to be trouble. Her method of showing her displeasure was to demean, to degrade.

    I do agree with your friend that Bev Smith is not a racist. And weirdly enough, I think she meant well, I really do. I do hope she's learned something but I'm not hopeful. I believe these attitudes are ingrained in her and she has no clue how condescending and damaging they are.

    I mean, good luck to her on her new venture, but personally, I would never let her near a child of mine.

  2. "Jungle ball"? Are you freakin serious????

    If what you say is true, then yes – that is degradation. It's interesting you agree with Jane's "unintentional racism" theory. Unintentional racism is the worst kind.

    Not knowing anything about the inner workings of the team, I did notice Smith's ever-present sulk and scowl. Towards the end I seriously thought she was clinically depressed. I can only imagine what it would be to have a coach with that attitude.

    I hope Paul Westhead turns things around at Oregon, in all ways.

  3. I realize this is well after the fact, but “St. Bev” was fired because she was a lousy coach. She was sub-.500 in the Pac-10 and she coached a boring style of play. Attendance declined year over year. As for Paul Westhead, I queried a sportswriter friend about this hire at the time. His response was: “There’s thinking outside the box, and then there’s burning the box!”