There's a saying in the Smith household: "Always sports; always family."
Granted, it might not be in that order — and Kelly Smith, Ketchikan High School's girls' basketball coach and Kayhi's new activities director, might have made up the slogan while walking with his family to a Little League baseball game on the Saturday afternoon of April 30.
But one thing's for certain, family and sports are at the top of the list.
"That's how we see it in our house," Smith said laughing, while on the phone with the Daily News.
And for the past couple months, it's been nothing but that.
After coaching the Lady Kings to a Region V championship, and a third-place finish in the state tournament; receiving ASAA Coach of the Year honors, and becoming a first-time grandparent — all in the month of March — Smith was named Kayhi's new activities director in April, and will take over the position next school year.
"I'm really excited," he said. "It's a high-turnover position we have in Ketchikan. Obviously, I've been in the district for a while, so I'm excited to hopefully stick with it for a while, and just help continue to build (Kayhi athletics)."
It's an office at the high school that has changed nameplates a few times over the last few years.
Then-Kayhi Assistant Principal Melissa Johnson also held the AD title for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. Kayhi Assistant Principal Cole Maxwell also pulled double duty as the AD during the 2020-21 school year, and at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, before the position became a rotation between Beth Sandefur, Kevin Johnson and Eric Stockhausen.
Since then, the three have shared the responsibilities depending on the sports season. The trio will continue to hold down the fort of AD responsibilities until Smith officially takes over the position.
Smith is hoping to bring some stability.
"It's always been something I've talked about and inquired about," he said. "Timing's never been really right. And then, it was something that this year — with the turnover we've had the last few years at it — I actually requested a transfer into it, if it was available, and I was granted the transfer into it."
Smith, who has worked at Schoenbar Middle School for the past 14 years, recently finished his 13th season as the Lady Kings' head basketball coach — a season that ended with bronze in the state tournament, and the highest individual honor awarded to Alaska high school basketball coaches: Coach of the Year.
The award is voted on by high school coaches across the state every season.
"I had great players," Smith said. "They worked their tails off, and I guess my (coaching) peers thought it was my turn."
This is Smith’s first Coach of the Year honor.
"When I took over girls' basketball a long time ago, they had had three or four coaches in the last five years," Smith said. "And those coaches did a great job with the kids, but it just didn't have that overall year-in, year-out consistency. And, you know, I kind of see this position as the same.
"I have a passion for all activities in Ketchikan," he continued. "I love to go and watch all the kids participate, and being at Schoenbar the last 14 years, I got to know a lot of the kids before they went to Kayhi and participated. It's just so fun to watch these kids succeed and grow, and mature through sports. I enjoy that part of it so much."
In his time at Schoenbar, Smith has held multiple positions, including teacher, coach, dean of students and activities coordinator. And while the search for his replacement at Schoenbar continues, as it's listed as a part-time position split between Schoenbar and Fawn Mountain Elementary School, Smith will keep his head coaching position with the Lady Kings — at least for now.
"In order to do this job right, it's a ton of time," he said of becoming AD. "I've been coaching a long time in the district, and there are definitely numerous people on our staff that are qualified. We're going to do it as a team effort this (next) year, and we'll see from there."
The Lady Kings' assistant coaches Josh Ledford, Bayley Lindgren, Andy Berntson and Mark Sivertsen are all expected to be back on staff next season.
"They're definitely going to have to take on bigger roles," Smith said of his staff, "and I'm going to have to allow them bigger roles. I'm going to be really busy on all fronts.
"We've built a really solid program here," he continued. "We still have the two best players in Southeast Alaska returning (in Lindsay Byron and Bree Johnson). We've got some young kids that want to work. So it's a lot of fun right now. But like I said, we've got a lot of great people in this town that could coach just as well as me, and are motivated. We're going to get the kids in a good situation before I hang that up completely."
With a 235-120 career record spanned across his 13 years leading the Lady Kings, Smith's shoes will be tough to fill — whenever someone else steps into them. But for the time being, Kayhi has the two winningest girls' and boys' basketball head coaches in Ketchikan history leading the way for both their programs, with Smith in charge of the girls' team, and Eric Stockhausen in charge of the boys.
"I've got connections all over the state that coaching in Southeast Alaska has allowed me to build," Smith said. "I have a good rapport with all the coaches and kids, and the staff at Kayhi. So I'm hoping to just be a familiar face, and I'll work hard for them."
But working hard also means more time away from family — especially in Southeast Alaska, when travel is measured in hours or days, by plane or by ferry. It's not a quick drive to the next town, and retuning back home by dinner.
And time is something the first-time grandpa has noticed more often these days.
"You have to be more aware of your time in every situation," Smith said.
"Right now we're on a walk," he continued. "But we had a big month. There's Coach of the Year, the region tournament, the state tournament, and a lot of fun — and then the granddaughter was definitely the biggest thing."
Yes, little Noelle takes the cake above all else.
Babies have a tendency to do that.
"It was amazing," Smith said of the past month. "There are so many people to be proud of. I'm proud of my daughter for becoming a mom and my wife for keeping it all together, and the team for their accomplishments. It was a really proud month.
"Every time it seems like I'm ready to just take a breath and reflect, something comes up — I get appointed the AD, and sent to a meeting two days later in Haines," he continued.
But before sports come to the forefront again, it’s first things first.
"We got a little nicer weather, right now, and we're smoking some ribs," he said, "and just kind of reflecting as a family of all our blessings. That's for sure."