Keith Smart, Cleveland Cavaliers' Head Coach

Cleveland basketball has a new leader who knows what it's like to be down before coming up.
by Doug Greengard

Keith Smart

Some might wonder what kind of mess Keith Smart has gotten himself in. As far as Smart is concerned, he is exactly where God wants him to be. "People ask me all the time, 'how do you deal with the situation that you are in?'" said Smart, in his first year as Head Coach of the National Basketball Association's Cleveland Cavaliers. "I tell them that I am in so much peace because of my firm belief in Christ that I don't have to worry about what's going on. Some people find that hard to believe - there's a peace that they can't understand. Only a believer can understand."

Smart has the unenviable task of trying to turn around the NBA's worst team. Remembered best for his dramatic game-winning jump shot in the 1987 NCAA Championship when he lifted the University of Indiana to victory, Smart found that joy, and salvation, can only be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. After a short-lived NBA career, the six-foot, one inch guard was playing ball in the Philippines in 1990 when he experienced the presence of God. He felt challenged to turn away from his life of chasing after the pleasures of this world. He knelt down on the floor and invited Christ to be his Lord and Savior. "I had thought I had to make the NBA, or my life wasn't complete," added Smart, who also played and coached for the Continental Basketball Association's Fort Wayne Fury. "Even after winning championships and things like that, my life still wasn't complete. From that point on, my life has been completely different. You can see that the steps I've taken have been orchestrated by God. I go from zero to, all of a sudden, head coach in the NBA."

It is easy for Smart to see the loving Hand of God directing his life. In fact, he is nothing short of being amazed. "He pulled me out of the environment I was in as an athlete, an environment that can be pretty chaotic, cleaned me up, gave me a new identity and put me right back in the same environment. So, now, my life has to be a testimony to all the guys that I come in contact with," said Smart. "People think you have to yell and scream at these guys. No! I find a way to get to their hearts first with my personality and then I try to teach them, and love them and, eventually, get these guys to do what I want them to do with the mindset of 'this is how Christ would do it.'"

Smart truly finds his inspiration from the greatest Head Coach of all, Jesus.

Doug Greengard is the chaplain for the New Orleans Saints Football Team and the host/producer of the Christian Sports Minute, a radio feature airing on nearly 350 stations in North America. To get a copy of Heroes of Faith, a book containing 24 stories of well-known sports figures, send $10 to Greengard Family Ministries, P.O. Box 113013, Metairie, LA 70011-3013. Visit the Website at www.christiansportsminute.com.

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