Small heading back to his first love - coaching hoops

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - For a person who says that he never really left coaching, Mount Washington resident and former Bullitt East Lady Charger head coach Steve Small set the coaching world on its ear recently when he accepted the head coaching position at Assumption High School.

The 62-year-old Small has not officially been a basketball coach since stepping down as the women’s head coach at Western Kentucky University in 2001. Since then Small has been doing a little of everything including writing columns for area media outlets, working as a color commentator for Bullitt East basketball games on the local radio station and owning an area business.

He has also been involved with the Kentucky All-Star team through the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation.

Before that, Small stayed in Bowling Green after stepping down as the Lady Toppers coach to work in the sports tourism business in that city. He helped Bowling Green land the state high school football finals as well as the girls’ state basketball tournament.

Since 2007, his official job title as been as the athletic director for the Basketball Academy in Louisville. In that post, he organized leagues, clinics, tournaments and gave lessons.

Unofficially, Small has been mentoring area basketball players and helping in their recruitment. A number of recent signees, including Bullitt East’s Kayla Thacker, Lindey Young and Corey Washburn have mentioned Small as being helpful in that process.

Washburn’s AAU coach last season with the BA Hoyas was Eric Browning, who will be one of Small’s assistant coaches at Assumption.

“I don’t think I ever got out of the game,” Small said recently as he watched his daughter, Mericate, play softball for Bullitt East. Mericate Small is the only senior on the Lady Charger squad this spring.

“I had five years of sports tourism in Bowling Green and I enjoyed that,” the coach said. “Then I was up here with the Basketball Academy helping kids get jobs and helping some with their letters to colleges.

“I’ve turned down some college jobs and I’ve turned down some high school jobs,” he said. “The last few years I said I wasn’t looking for a job, but I thought I might like a job to rebuild.”

Assumption is best known as a volleyball school, but they have the means to be a strong basketball program. The two sports each have a gym at the school off Bardstown Road. 

“His basketball pedigree is outstanding, but we are getting a tremendous person and personality,” Assumption athletic director Bobby Blair said. “I cannot tell you how exciting this is for Assumption High School, our basketball program, our community, and most importantly, our girls. Coach Small’s unbelievable influence will be felt far and wide.”

Small could not hide the fact that one of Assumption’s incoming freshmen is a 6-6 center with, as the coach said, ‘potential’.

Small’s first coaching job was at Mount Washington Middle School in 1972, one of his few jobs coaching boys. He then started the girls’ program at Bullitt East in 1980, going 92-31 including a pair of 29th District titles and a spot in the Eighth Region championship game in 1984.

Small’s first teams included Amy Falk, Carla Coffey and Andy Anthony who each played for the Kentucky All-Stars. Small was also the girls’ track coach at Bullitt East during this time, coaching Anthony to her five state titles in the hurdles and discus.

He left Bullitt East after the 1983-84 season to become an assistant coach at Western Kentucky University under Paul Sanderford. Small later became the associate head coach before taking over that program in 1997 when Sanderford left to become the head coach at the University of Nebraska.

Small had an 89-39 record at Western as the head coach and the program had a .709 winning percentage when he was an assistant/associate head coach. The Lady Hilltoppers played in three Final Fours during that period, reaching the national championship game in 1992 in Los Angeles where they lost to Stanford 78-62.