Samantha Quigley Smith became the sixth head coach in SIUE Women’s Basketball history on April 27, 2021. Having years of experience with both basketball and coaching behind her, she said she looks forward to a number of things with the Cougars this season and beyond. The Alestle recently asked Smith a few questions to help the community get to know her better.
Q: Outside of coaching, what has your prior experience with basketball been?
A: “Basketball and athletics [have] been a part of my life and my family’s life really since we were born. I come from a family of educators, so my parents were teachers at the high school [and] junior high level, and then also coached multiple different sports growing up and coached us as young student-athletes growing up … I’m actually one of four, so we have two brothers and then there [are] two women in the family two, so we grew up with a lot of two-on-two battles, boys versus girls.”
Q: How did you get started coaching, and how has your career progressed?
A: “There was an assistant coaching position open at a local university, [the University of Saint Francis]. It was just really great timing where I was able to become an assistant coach there really, truly my first year out of college ... After one year as assistant coach, I was the head coach of a collegiate program … and then [Lewis University] called and asked if I would come interview, so I went out there and just really fell in love with the people and the program. So I was there the last four seasons, and then this opportunity arose as well and [I] was really blown away in the interview process.”
Q: Do you have any notable achievements from the course of your coaching career?
A: “I was [at University of Saint Francis] for six years, we had some great success. We went from a 10- season to, we were number one in the nation at one point at the [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] level, and so [I] really took that program to some amazing places. We ended up going to the first Final Four in the NAIA for that institution. I had some involvement with USA Basketball from 2014-2017, and so USA Basketball is really the program that gets student-athletes prepared for events such as the Olympics. I actually helped coach some of the youth programs, so they were the Under-16 and Under-18 championship teams, so that was a pretty cool experience; we went to Spain and we went to Mexico to play in some tournaments.”
Q: What made you choose SIUE?
A: “Number one, I feel like I’ve always wanted to stay in the Midwest. At some point a couple years ago, I truly sat down with our family and I said, ‘I would really like to coach at the Division One level someday,’ … to get the opportunity to interview this spring, in the last few months, it was just really eye-opening to what Edwardsville has to offer, and the people, it was truly about the people — meeting with administration, meeting with the other fellow coaches, meeting with the student-athletes — I left those meetings feeling like they were already family.”
Q: What are your first priorities for the Cougars this season?
A: “I think first and foremost, it’s just establishing our culture from a program and a staff standpoint and getting them all to buy in ... really establishing great relationships with our student-athletes and getting them to understand that we want the best for them. So, the academic side of things and truly locking in on being a student first and then an athlete, our group is really going to be focused in that area. And then, just playing a fun brand of basketball — playing sort of an up-tempo pace and allowing our players to play with some freedom and being able to play in transition. It’s an exciting way to play and I think it’s an exciting thing to watch.”
Q: What are some longer-term goals you have in mind for the team?
A: “We want to make sure we’re competing every night and every day in practice to get better. It’s not so much about winning and losing right now — [if] we get to the point where we’re focused in practice and we’re getting things accomplished and we’re developing individually and collectively, then we truly feel like hopefully the score is going to take care of itself. But that togetherness of, ‘We win together, we lose together’ — hopefully we win more than we lose, but our whole group collectively feeling like, ‘We are developing, we are getting better, we are maturing and we are moving in the direction of success.’ So, whether that happens by December or … April, [it’s] not so much of a timeline more than it is, ‘Are we daily getting better?’”
Q: What would you say you’re most excited about going forward?
A: “I’m just most excited about the team getting here and getting moving and hitting the ground, and meeting some of the incoming freshmen that I haven’t got to meet in person yet … I think the better we get to know each other, the better we can move in a great, positive direction for everybody to get better ... And then the first game, it’s going to be something that you really look forward to — they’ve all got their uniforms on, there’s maybe some fans in the stands, which was something unique that we didn’t have much of last year. So that aspect, and getting to have parents and family and friends in the crowd, those are things that I really look forward to also.”
Q: Is there anything else you want readers to know about you?
A: “My sister actually plays in the WNBA for the Chicago Sky team. She’s been playing professionally now for 12 years and she plays overseas in Russia, and then she comes back over here and plays with the Chicago Sky team. So that’s a really great connection and thing that I think our student-athletes, potentially going to watch WNBA games and being a part of the change the WNBA has been a part of, whether it’s social justice, whether it’s Title IX — that connection for me is obviously really close to home, with it being my sister — but also, just all of the activism of the WNBA and how prominent that’s been in the last couple of years.”