One of the most successful head girls basketball coaches for any classification in District 6--and in the state of Idaho--has accepted a job in the Equality State.
Damien Smith, a 2001 Ririe graduate, accepted the position of superintendent of the Uinta County School District in Lyman, Wyo., on Tuesday morning. He interviewed for the position last week and was offered the position on Monday.
Smith held three positions--athletic director, principal and head girls basketball coach--at Ririe since the 2017-18 school year. He was head girls basketball coach for 11 seasons and athletic director for nearly a decade before stepping down from that position in March.
Smith said former Butte County girls and boys head basketball coach Jason Hansen, who works in the Uinta County School District, let him know about the job opening in May. He said the application process moved quickly, and his first day as superintendent is July 1.
“It’s a monumental change for the Smith family, no doubt,” Smith said Wednesday night by phone. “We’re trying to get our home ready to sell. I’m gonna take my oldest kids over to start playing sports with those kids. It’s been real fast.”
Smith, who had applied for Ririe’s superintendent position earlier this school year, said he wasn’t searching for opportunities elsewhere, but seriously thought about the Uinta County School District superintendent opening after Hansen informed him about it. Smith described Lyman as a community of similar size to Ririe and said one of the biggest factors in his decision to accept the job was more time with his own kids and their activities.
“My wife and I, we just talked about maybe it’s time for me to be there for my kids and support my kids,” Smith said. “With the many hats I wore at Ririe, I was gone a lot. Hopefully this allows me to spend more time with my kids.”
Smith added that there is a part of him that is sad to be leaving his hometown and alma mater, especially as girls basketball coach. A multi-sport athlete at Ririe, Smith has been coaching in some capacity since he was 20 years old. He began as an assistant coach under recently retired Ririe head boys basketball coach Eric Torgerson before serving as an assistant coach for one year at Shelley and then returning to Ririe as head girls basketball coach in 2008. He turned his alma mater into a small school powerhouse, going from four wins in his first season to 2A District 6 championships in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and seven consecutive 2A state tournament appearances from 2013 to 2019. Prior to his hire, the Bulldogs had last won a district title and reached state in 2002. Smith compiled 195 wins in 11 seasons, guiding the Bulldogs to third place in 2013, second place in 2014, 2015 and 2018 and a program-first state title in 2017. Five of his players went on to play college basketball.
Smith said he had no idea when he was hired that the Bulldogs would become as successful as they did, and no longer coaching will be a major life change for him after 16 years of being called Coach Smith.
“To be honest, my wife and I thought we were gonna be lifers at Ririe,” said Smith, whose wife Ashley is also a Ririe graduate and former Bulldog basketball player. “When I informed the basketball players, there was a lot of tears from myself and tears from them. It hit me hard that I wouldn’t be called coach again. That’s all I’ve ever known. Everybody has a different measuring stick for success. My staff was amazing to work with. They believed in the direction that I wanted to go and were on board all the time. I believe with the girls I was able to coach and the parent support I had, we were able to be very successful.”
Smith added that the cupboard is full for the next Ririe head girls basketball coach. He has been coaching summer basketball and said the Bulldogs won their home tournament and the North Fremont tournament. He said he will truly miss the Ririe community and the relationships he built in his administrative roles.
“I hope with every job and every kid that I’ve helped them in some way,” Smith said. “That’s what matters is leaving a positive impact. That’s what I’m hoping for as I leave my hometown.”
Serving in multiple administrative roles has allowed Smith to see how a school district operates in various ways, which he believes has prepared him to be a superintendent. He added that there will be a huge learning curve with his new position, but he is excited for the opportunity and is applying one of his coaching mantras to this career change.
“Things have never happened on my timetable in my life,” Smith said. “I was prepared to coach for a handful more years. I’m pretty young to be a superintendent. I’ve been preaching believing in something bigger than yourself to my team the last 11 years and now it’s my turn to do something bigger than myself and for my family.”