To Honor and To Build: Coach Jim Smith’s Legacy

Jim Smith and Vic Moore ‘72

Nearly 300 guests filled “Rat Hall” Feb. 16 to help celebrate the legacy of Saint John’s University basketball coaching legend Jim Smith, who was inducted as one of the two inaugural members of the Saint John’s Athletic Hall of Honor.

The impact of that legacy extends far beyond the championships and the Minnesota collegiate-record 786 victories.

Smith did much more than simply provide an athletic team experience: He touched the lives of each and every one of those players, helping provide them with a springboard to their own success.

The event was a celebration and a roast of Smith’s career at Saint John’s.  Notables such as Minneapolis StarTribune sportswriter Patrick Reusse, St. Thomas coaching rival and friend Steve Fritz, and current Saint John’s head basketball coach Pat McKenzie ’04 joined others in roasting and toasting Jim’s life and accomplishments.

Humorous stories of the past engaged the crowd. Laughter reverberated through Rat Hall as Adrienne Smith – Jim’s wife of 61 years – placed a timer on the podium at the start of Jim’s speech to monitor the length.

J-Club President Vic Moore ’72 formally inducted Smith into the Athletic Hall of Honor, presenting him with a plaque and heart-felt words of appreciation. It was a special night for Smith, who had more than 25 family members in attendance for the celebration of his career at Saint John’s.

During the past year, Saint John’s alums Dan Smith ’79, Tim McNamara ’77, John Patterson ’79, Tim Bot ’86 and John Ellis ’88 have begun a bold initiative to create and build an endowment that will honor Jim Smith’s legacy. Their goal is to build, strengthen and stabilize funding for Johnnie basketball to ensure it continues to be a nationally competitive program.

Contributions totaling more than $500,000 have already been committed toward the initial goal of $1 million. The committee’s goal is to reach the $1 million mark by the end of 2019.

There are more than 500 Saint John’s basketball alums, and far more friends of Jim and Ade Smith. Strong participation from the basketball community and their deep generosity in this effort to raise $1 million will ensure that Johnnie basketball will continue to not only have a high level of success, but that the program under McKenzie will continue to impact the lives of players and provide a springboard for their successful lives.

To learn more about how to support the Jim Smith Endowed Basketball Leadership Program Fund, click here for details then click on the To Honor and To Build link. 

You can also contact Troy Fritz via email at or phone 320.363.3281 with how can you help with the Jim Smith fund.