Johnathan Smith: A passion for the game

The Huskies head basketball coach shares why it’s the youth who have made him the person he is today


Photo by Thomas Chung

Photo by Thomas Chung


“I have always said that it’s not a love of the game, even though I do love it, it’s my passion for working with youth and seeing them succeed that gives me the greatest pleasure,” says Jonathan Smith, who has just finished his third season as the head coach for the George Brown College (GBC) basketball team.

For Smith, basketball was always a passion while growing up.

Beginning his career in 1988 while attending York University, Smith says it was a friend of his who had seen an ad in the paper for an opening as a teen co-ordinator at Driftwood Community Centre, in the Jane and Finch area.

Previously having worked at the Scott Mission with the Summer House program with kids as well as at Mount Forest Camp—he applied.

“At Driftwood Community Centre (basketball) was a way of getting kids into a safe environment and to do something constructive,” says Smith. “The lessons we can learn through the game can be used in everyday life.”

Smith has taught at five high schools and several community centres. It was at Eastern Commerce Collegiate (ECC) that he was asked to take over the basketball program for a year for a friend after going on leave.

At ECC, Smith and his team went on to win the first ever Quad A Championship in Windsor. The following year, they defeated Henry Carr of Toronto, for their second title in two years.

Having earned the respect from his players and peers, his experience as a coach has lead to the success of dozens of athletes, many of whom have gone on to play for Canadian and American universities, as well as in the National Basketball League of Canada.

Some of the players include: Jully Black (C.W. Jeffreys), who is now an R&B singer, Kingsley Costain, inventor of basketball technology; Ola Matti, now a rapper; Steve Morrison, assistant coach at Ryerson, and Kerwin Liverpool, a novelist who also works with he Raptors Foundation.

“To see the young men and women achieve success in life, is a reward in itself,” says Smith, who is a strong supporter of education and sport.

“I find it very hard to hear people talk about me in that way as I am an emotional man and very proud to be. To hear someone recognize you in any way is nice and flattering, but it’s not why we do it,” says Smith, on the recognition he has received as a coach. “I do it to provide the same support I was lucky to have from my mother and father.”

Smith is thankful that after leaving ECC after a year, he ended up at George Brown, where he says, “has a lot of amazing young men and women.”

When it comes to players who come back to thank him for what he’s done, Smith says, “I must say ‘thank you’ to them for enriching my life, because without them I would not be the man or coach that I am today.”


Johnathan Smith: A passion for the game