Just hours after Erik Smiles learned where his men’s basketball team was seeded in the NCAA Division III Tournament, the young coach was busy scouting for next year.
Smiles sat in the bleachers at SUNY-Old Westbury Monday afternoon watching Farmingdale High School battle Uniondale in the , quietly grading potential prospects. That’s how you build a winning tradition in D-III, with relentless energy and an eye toward the future.
Farmingdale State will play in its fourth NCAA Tournament under Smiles, who at 33 has racked up an impressive 160-63 record and .720 winning percentage in eight seasons. The Rams (22-5) qualified for the NCAAs by Tournament Saturday, an 83-64 victory over SUNY-Purchase.
The Rams travel to upstate Oneonta and in a first round NCAA game Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“At this stage of the game, everybody is good – not just good, great,” said Smiles, who within hours of learning his next opponent had already watched video of Hartwick and put together a scouting report.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s been a special season. The Rams are buzz worthy, and a big reason why is the addition of 7-foot junior (22.4 points, 16.6 rebounds).
Smiles admitted he was lucky to land the Brooklyn product (by way of junior college), but in the same breath claimed his extensive network of contacts helped steer the eventual Skyline player of the year to Farmingdale. Smiles believes you make your own luck.
There’s no arguing with the results.
“He puts in an enormous amount of time recruiting, scouting, practicing and coaching and his hard work has surely paid off," Rams Athletic Director Mike Harrington said. "Erik has done a fabulous job. He has been coaching here for eight years and has been to the NCAA's four times and won three Skyline championships. He is a great representation for our college and especially for our athletic department.”
The Rams hit the road to Oneonta Thursday morning. Smiles’ message to his team as they left for the postseason?
“Stay hungry and humble,” Smiles said. “Back in 2008 we won the league and had the same exact record 22-5 going in. We thought we were better than we were. We underestimated our opponent and got beat pretty bad by Penn State Behrend.”
With largely the same cast, Farmingdale State returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and reached the Elite 8. Smiles, a 2001 University of Bridgeport graduate, is 4-3 in the NCAAs.
How will this run end? The players will have to decide that. But you can bet Smiles has a plan for every outcome.