Former college coach Gaines dies at 80

David “Smokey” Gaines, a pioneering college basketball coach after his playing days in the American Basketball Association and the Harlem Globetrotters, died Saturday. He was 80.He died after a long battle with brain and liver cancer. The Detroit News reported he also recently tested positive for COVID-19.A native of Detroit, Gaines played college basketball at LeMoyne-Owen in Tennessee. He turned down a chance to play for the hometown Pistons to fulfill a dream of playing with the Globetrotters, which he did from 1963-67, followed by a short stint with the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA.After his playing days, he went into coaching and in 1973, Dick Vitale hired him as a part-time assistant coach at Detroit Mercy, where Gaines became the first Black coach in team history. He was promoted to a full-time assistant, and when Vitale stepped down from the job, Gaines became the head coach before the 1977-78 season.In his first year on the job, Gaines led the Titans to a 25-4 finish and an appearance in the NIT. The following season, Detroit Mercy made the NCAA Tournament with a 22-6 record.”Smokey was a motivator, he just had his way of doing it and he got the most out of you,” said Earl Cureton, who played for Gaines before embarking on a 12-year NBA career.”We had one of our most successful seasons when he took over, but he just wasn’t a great coach, he was a great individual. He came from some hard times and made his way out and reached his dream of playing with the Globetrotters and in the ABA.”

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