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Steve Smith coaches his last game for Oak Hill in GEICO Nationals: 'It's bittersweet ... but it's just time'

SBLive spoke with the retiring Smith, one of the most decorated high school coaches of all-time, ahead of Oak Hill's GEICO National quarterfinals loss to Link Academy

Steve Smith figured he'd save most of the deep reflecting on his 37-year career for when it was actually over, and he had more time to spend in his recliner chair and on the tee box. 

But as the texts, calls and visits from former players have poured in since announcing his retirement in February, just how much he'd miss it started to sink inn.

"A lot of 'lasts' come up, but it's been fun," Smith said."I was thinking about it yesterday, I haven't coached 50 years, but I've coached in five decades, that's a long time. I've seen a lot of changes, a lot of great players, got to coach in a lot of big games, had some great teams."

Smith's illustrious high school coaching career came to an end on Thursday when Oak Hill lost to Link Academy in the GEICO Nationals quarterfinals, 81-67 in Fort Myers, Fla

He finishes with eight national championships, a 1,232-99 record in 37 years and the top all-time win percentage and coached more than 30 NBA Draft picks, including the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo.

When Smith took over the program in 1985 after two years as an assistant, one of his first players was Rod Strickland, who went on to play 17 years in the NBA.

Smith called Strickland on his last birthday, and joked that he knew it was time to hang it up after hearing that one of his former players is now 55 years old. 

"I went 'oh my goodness, I do need to retire,' " Smith, 66, said, laughing.

His final home game at Oak Hill was accompanied by commemorations and honors. The boarding school in Mouth of Wilson, Va. even named their court after Smith. It will now be Steve Smith Court in historic Turner Gymnasium. 

Among the many former players who traveled to see a home game in-person this season are former NBA players Brandon Jennings and Corey Alexander as well as Nolan Smith, now an assistant coach at Duke, as well as four players from his class of 1989.

Smith said he'll look to stay around the game in some capacity, but is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, his grandkids, as well as out on a golf course. 

"It's so bittersweet," Smith said Wednesday. "It'll be sad, I'll miss the coaching part, the practices, being around the guys and all that, but it's just time."