The defending state champion Miami Central football team has found its new coach.
The Rockets hired former Northwestern coach Roland Smith to replace Telly Lockette, who was hired to be the running backs coach at the University of South Florida in March.
Smith returns to coaching high school football in Miami-Dade County after six seasons away. Smith had been teaching in recent years at North Miami Middle School.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity and grateful to Miami Central for offering it to me,” Smith said. “I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m excited to get back and help these guys try to win another state title and excel on the national level.”
Smith guided his alma mater Northwestern to a state championship and a perfect 15-0 season in 2006. Smith was then removed along with the majority of his coaching staff by former Dade schools superintendent Rudy Crew in the wake of the scandal involving former Bulls running back Antwain Easterling.
Smith and his coaches were cleared of all wrongdoing in the matter in the ensuing months.
During his six seasons as Northwestern’s coach, Smith led the Bulls to a 69-13 record (best of any team during that span), a state title, a state runner-up finish in 2001, and state semifinal appearances in 2002 and 2005.
Smith had been rumored to be in the running for a few premier coaching vacancies in recent years, including Northwestern and Booker T. Washington, before they hired their current coaches.
“I didn’t want to rush into just any situation,” Smith said. “When Central contacted me I was at the Youth Fair with my son, and I was excited they had me in mind. I told them I needed a little time to think about it. The great thing is I get to coach again with a lot of guys that coached with me in the past and have done an excellent job here [at Central]. I’m so proud and happy to get a chance to coach with them again.”
Smith takes over a Central program that ranks among the nation’s best, having won two Class 6A state championships in the past three seasons under Lockette, who guided the Rockets to a 60-10 record in five seasons.
Central has advanced to three consecutive state finals and have not lost to a Dade opponent since 2008.
The Rockets will take on a challenging schedule this coming season that includes a trip to New Jersey to take on national powerhouse Don Bosco Prep and games against defending Class 4A state champion Booker T. Washington, Class 3A champion Davie University School, Plantation American Heritage, Norland, Northwestern, Carol City, Homestead and Coral Reef.
Coaching baseball in the inner city comes with its challenges. With most of the local athletes gravitating toward football and basketball, high school baseball rosters in the inner city are often left bereft of any talent or potential.
Inner city schools get mercy-ruled in five innings on the diamond against average competition they would usually run the clock against in second halves on the gridiron.
Baseball coaches in such situations don’t last very long as the losses pile on.
But then there are some who stick by their guns for 27 years, and that’s what long-time North Miami coach Ken Litman did.
Litman decided to retire at the end of this season — one which came to its conclusion Wednesday afternoon with an 8-4 loss to North Miami Beach, the same school Litman spent three years with as an assistant before becoming skipper of the Pioneers.