Lamont Smith returns to coach alma mater San Diego

SAN DIEGO (AP) The University of San Diego went with a familiar face when it came to hiring a new basketball coach.

Lamont Smith, a former player with the Toreros, was introduced Wednesday as Bill Grier's replacement. Smith is the school's fifth men's basketball coach since it became a Division I program in 1979.

''It's great to be home,'' Smith said at his introductory news conference. ''I'm really excited to be back and I'm truly honored and humbled to be the head coach. I guarantee you we will give you everything we have on a day-to-day basis.''

Smith, 39, was New Mexico's assistant head coach the past two seasons under Craig Neal.

''It is just an awesome deal that he is a head coach in the NCAA Division I ranks and also at his alma mater,'' Neal said in a statement.

Smith, a first-time head coach, played for the Toreros from 1994-99 and was a two-time captain. He was twice named the team's defensive player of the year, which explains his defensive slant as a coach.

Smith's coaching career started in 1999 as a Saint Louis graduate assistant. His other stops included Washington, Arizona State, Santa Clara and Saint Mary's.

''I'm ready to be a head coach right now,'' Smith said. ''I've sat as close as you can sit to that seat without being the head coach. I'm ready; I'm ready for the challenge. My teams will play fast, have fun, be aggressive and play together.''

Ky Snyder, USD's vice president of athletics, said he's not concerned about Smith's lack of experience.

''Everyone talked about his readiness to be a head coach,'' Snyder said. ''And his overall knowledge of the game, his energy, and ability to connect with people and bring enthusiasm to the program.''

Grier was fired after eight seasons and a 117-144 record.

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