Pete Smith / 1953-2006
SB FILE / FEB. 1997
Former Kalaheo coach Pete Smith celebrated with players after the Mustangs beat Waipahu for the 1997 OIA title.
Friends remember Kalaheo coach as a great man
He guided the Mustangs to three state titles and had an .845 winning percentage
Family, friends and fans of legendary Kalaheo High School basketball coach Pete Smith can only wonder what might have been.
Just three years after retiring from coaching, Smith died yesterday morning at Castle Medical Center after a long battle with cancer. He was 52.
News of his passing spread quickly, jolting the Kalaheo community and prep basketball circles across the islands.
Last year, former Radford basketball guru Jimmy Alegre died. Many colleagues and peers of Alegre echoed the same praises yesterday for Smith: Compassionate. Generous. Funny. A family man.
"He'll be missed by his former players and by many, many students, by the hundreds," former Kalaheo athletic director Lee Cashman said of Smith, who taught physical education until retiring in 2003.
Smith had taught and coached since graduating from the University of Hawaii. His 18-year coaching career included three state crowns and a remarkable .845 winning percentage.
The success includes a 76-game win streak between 1993 and 2000.
That prompted Cashman to later say, "Pete Smith IS Kalaheo basketball."
Kalaheo's most recent state championship team won the title in 2001.
That team featured guards D.C. Daniels and Skyler Wilson, and 6-foot-6 swingman Ikaika Alama-Francis. Wilson, a nephew of Smith, moved from California to play for his uncle.
His legacy includes sons Alika and Kea. Alika Smith, an All-State player at Kalaheo, went on to star at UH and is currently an assistant coach with the Warriors.
Kea Smith played at Kamehameha and is now a manager for the Warriors men's basketball team.
UH coach Riley Wallace learned of Smith's passing when Alika called early yesterday morning. Wallace knew Smith for many years, going back to Smith's assistant coaching stint under Merv Lopes at Chaminade. Later, he got to know Smith better when Alika joined the program.
"Family man that he was, you could see the caring, the love that he had. This is a tight-knit family," Wallace said. "I followed his (Kalaheo) teams closely. He was one of the top coaches in the game. He loved coaching and working with young people. He took teams to camps on the mainland."
Wallace recalled the recruiting process with Alika Smith.
"He left it all up to Alika, and he was always there to help. As a parent, he never interfered," he said.
In his eyes, Smith was a basketball purist.
"He just coached. There were no politics in him," Wallace said. "We lost two of the best the last couple of years with Jimmy and now Pete. I feel for the family."
Dwight Toyama was a football coach at Kaimuki during the early years of Smith's dynasty at Kalaheo. As he elevated to executive director positions with the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and Oahu Interscholastic Association, Toyama viewed Smith with respect and admiration.
"He definitely raised the bar, raised the standard of coaching for coaches not just in OIA basketball, but in all of Hawaii. He was a real humble guy, real classy," Toyama said. "He served many people as a mentor.
"He was a great man."