HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Coker College is pleased to announce the hiring of Tony Smith as the Cobras’ first ever men’s lacrosse coach. Smith will take the helm of the newly formed Coker lacrosse program starting December 1.

“I would like to thank Coker College Athletic Director Lynn Griffin and Coker College President Dr. Robert Wyatt for the opportunity to be the inaugural head coach of the men's lacrosse team,” said Smith. “I look forward to building the Coker College men’s lacrosse program into a Conference Carolinas and NCAA regional powerhouse.”

Smith comes to Coker from fellow Conference Carolinas member Belmont Abbey College, where he has been the assistant coach and defensive coordinator since 2007. At the Abbey, Smith was in charge of all of the Crusaders’ recruiting efforts locally, nationally and internationally, while also creating and implementing the defensive unit and strategy for a lacrosse program that has finished in the top three in the Conference Carolinas standings in two of the last three years.

In 2010, the Crusaders defensive unit held opposing teams to less than 10 points per game.  The 2010 season was also the second consecutive season that the Crusader defensive unit caused more than 100 turnovers, with 126.

In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Smith was also an instructor in Belmont Abbey’s Sports Administration Program.

“I would like to thank Coach Jim Dietsch and Dr. Travis Feezell, both of Belmont Abbey College, for being invaluable in my development as a college coach and college professional,” Smith said. “I especially want to thank Coach Dietsch. Jim has been my mentor and friend for almost twenty years.  One could not find a better lacrosse and "life lessons" mentor than Jim Dietsch.  I owe all of my coaching acumen to Jim and I will be forever grateful.”

A graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, Smith holds bachelor’s degrees in history, as well as government and politics. He earned his master’s of education in sports administration from Wingate University, and prior to his time at Belmont Abbey, Smith served as an assistant coach at Wingate University and the Community College of Baltimore College-Catonsville.

Smith played collegiately at the Community College of Baltimore College-Catonsville (1994-1996) and Whittier College (1996-1998).

“I am honored that Tony Smith will become the inaugural men’s lacrosse coach at Coker,” said Griffin. “He has the vision to develop a competitive lacrosse program that Coker College will be proud of.  I feel that his experience at the NCAA Division II level will aid him in recruiting the type of student-athlete that can excel here.”

 “I am looking forward to beginning to aggressively recruit potential student athletes to fill a complete roster by the start the fall 2011 academic semester,” said Smith. “This recruiting will begin immediately. My hope will be to instill sound liberal arts academic values, moral integrity and a "win now" attitude in my future team as we begin to build a successful lacrosse program here at Coker.”

Coach Smith embodies all of the characteristics we believe define a successful college coach,” said Wyatt. “His focus is on recruiting student-athletes who are concerned about their performance in the classroom, as well on the field, along with his tremendous playing and coaching experience will help establish a winning tradition for Coker lacrosse.”

Coker becomes the seventh Conference Carolinas member to add lacrosse. Conference Carolinas is known as one of the top conference for lacrosse in the country with many highly successful programs such as two-time NCAA Division II National Champion Limestone College.

The 14th NCAA Division II athletic program at Coker, the Cobra lacrosse program will begin in the fall of 2011. They will practice and play games on the football field at Byerly Park in Hartsville.