USD returns to practice after coach’s arrest
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The University of San Diego returned to the basketball court minus their head coach on Tuesday.
Lamont Smith remains on paid administrative leave after being arrested on domestic abuse charges on Sunday in Oakland, hours after the Toreros defeated the University of San Francisco in their regular-season finale.
The Toreros (18-12), seeded No. 6, open against No. 3-seed BYU (22-9) in the West Coast Conference tournament on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Smith, a former USD player who is in his third season as its coach, was arrested on Sunday for suspicion of domestic violence, assault with force, likely to commit great bodily injury and false imprisonment. The woman sustained the injuries in a room at the USD team hotel. She was treated at a hospital for non life-threatening injuries.
Smith, 42, is married with two children.
“Everybody was shocked,” senior forward Cameron Neubauer said about his reaction after hearing of the incident. “It was tough to process and it took a day or two to let things settle down. It was all over the media and we’re not used to that.”
Assistant coach Sam Scholl was named to replace Smith as the acting head coach throughout the remainder of the season. The USD human resources department is conducting an investigation into the matter.
The Toreros were riding a high after they produced just their second winning season in 10 years. Then came word about the allegations against Smith.
“Over the last 48 hours there were a lot of emotions about the things that have been going on,” said Scholl, who has never been a head coach at any level. “But we have come together and it has brought us really close.”
USD splits its two games with BYU this season, winning the last matchup, 75-62, on Feb. 17. The Toreros have to prevail again by distancing themselves from the distraction caused but their coach’s actions.
“Our guys have to be able to keep their blinders on for Saturday because there is a lot of emotional noise,” Scholl said. “But you only get four chances in your career to play for an NCCA Tournament bid, so we are focused on taking advantage of that opportunity.”
But it won’t be easy.
“It’s a difficult situation; I was shocked along with everyone else,” junior guard Olin Carter III said. “I know it’s a hard time for everybody but I’m just trying to get us ready for Saturday against a hard team in BYU. That’s going to be a tough game.”