Prairie View A&M University Athletic Director Ashley Robinson announced that Byron Smith has been named the school’s head men’s basketball coach. Smith becomes the sixth head coach in PVAMU NCAA Division I history and the 10th head coach since the 1956-57 campaign.
“I’ve observed Coach Smith on-and-off the court once the transition was made in January and I liked how the student-athletes gravitated towards him and fed off his energy and confidence,” said Athletic Director Ashley Robinson. “It showed as we finished the second half of the season with a winning record. I was also impressed on how he interacted with the PVAMU community and went out of his way to make them feel welcome when the opportunity presented itself. I feel he has the necessary characteristics to become a successful head coach as our men’s program will be in good hands.”
Prior to accepting the role of head coach, Smith spent the previous three seasons as an assistant at PVAMU. He was named interim head coach the final three months of the 2015-16 season.
“I truly appreciate Dr. Wright and Mr. Robinson for showing confidence and faith in me that I can be the person who can lead this program to the next level,” said Smith. “This is my divine assignment and I will take it very seriously. I want to build a basketball culture at Prairie View A&M and I want to also thank our students, alumni and fans for being so supportive through this process.”
Elevated to the role of interim head coach in January of 2016, the Panthers quickly made the transition to Smith’s style as they defeated conference rival and defending SWAC Champion Texas Southern for his first career win on Feb. 6. One week later, the Panthers defeated Grambling State for their first winning streak of the season and began a second half run which saw PVAMU close out the regular season with wins in four of the last six games. During PVAMU’s late run, the Panthers defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff for their first win in Pine Bluff, Ark. since 2005 and also defeated Southern University on their home court for the first time since 2010.
Under Smith, senior guard Jayrn Johnson flourished as he averaged 20.5 points over the final 11 games of the season. Johnson finished as PVAMU’s scoring leader and was the team’s top three-point shooter in addition to being named SWAC Player of the Week on two occasions in the month of February.
During the 2014-15 campaign, Smith played a pivotal role in helping senior center Reggis Onwukamuche ascend to the top of the SWAC amongst post players as Onwukamuche was named the SWAC's Defensive Player of the Year while also earning a spot on the All-SWAC Second Team. Onwukamuche finished the regular season with 57 blocked shots (1.7 per game), ranked 10th in the SWAC with 5.3 rebounds and second with 2.4 offensive rebounds per game. As a result of his play, Onwukamuche received an opportunity to play professionally as he inked a contract with the Sheffield Sharks of the British Basketball League. In addition to Onwukamuche's play, junior post Karim York saw his role expand as he averaged a career-high 9.1 points per game along with 5.1 rebounds. York tripled his scoring average in 2014-15 and averaged nearly four times more rebounds than the previous season with the Panthers.
In his first season at Prairie View A&M, Smith helped the Panthers make history as they advanced to the championship round of the 2014 SWAC Tournament for the second consecutive season. Smith primarily worked with the team’s post players and helped forward Demondre Chapman achieve career highs in scoring in rebounding.
Smith has experience in all levels of basketball across the globe. Prior to Prairie View A&M, Smith was an entrepreneur as he ran a business which consisted of him coaching high performance skills and fundamentals programs in the Houston area.
Collegiately, Smith spent one season (2009-10) at Texas Southern and helped the Tigers advance to the championship round of the SWAC Tournament for the first time since 2003. Before coming to TSU, Smith served as an assistant coach at Texas A&M and helped lead the Aggies to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in addition to securing a pair of nationally ranked recruiting classes.
Smith also served as the head coach of the highly-successful Houston Swoosh AAU program for three seasons. Prior to that, he was the head coach of the Harlem Globetrotters in 2002-03.
In 2001-02, he served as an assistant coach at McClennan Community College in Waco, helping the team to the regional finals. In 2000-01, he was the interim head coach at Texas Southern. Smith was the director of basketball operations at his alma mater, the University of Houston, under Clyde Drexler from 1998-00.
Smith was a standout player at UH from 1989-91, twice earning All-Southwest Conference honors under Coach Pat Foster. Prior to that, he was an all-conference player at Tyler Junior College in 1988-89 and played at Northwestern State in 1987-88.
A native of Bossier City, La., Smith earned all-state honors as a senior at Airline High School after leading the state in scoring with a 30.6 average.
After graduating from UH in 1991, Smith played professional basketball overseas for six seasons, including four years in Australia. He also played in Turkey and Greece.
Smith and his wife, Melanie has two children, Christopher and Kayla.