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Longtime St. John's coach Jim Smith retires after 51 seasons

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Another longtime coach at St. John's University has announced his retirement. After 51 seasons, Jim Smith announced Wednesday that he would retire at the end of his contract on June 30.

Smith, 80, finishes as Minnesota's all-time career wins leader in college basketball with 786. That is second in NCAA Division III and 14th in at all levels in the NCAA.

"This has been a very difficult decision and one that has required a great deal of thought and lost sleep," Smith said in a statement through the university, based near St. Cloud. "I will miss my associations with our basketball players more than anything else but will always relish the times that we spent together. Our alumni are very special people and I look forward to continued relationships with them."

Smith led his teams to seven MIAC titles, five MIAC playoff titles, nine trips to the NAIA tournament and eight trips to the NCAA Division III playoffs, most recently in 2007. Smith also won MIAC titles in each of the past five decades.

Additionally, he was named the NCAA Division III West Region Coach of the Year twice (1992-93, 2000-01) and was named the MIAC Coach of the Year six times.

"Jim Smith is part of that great tradition of Johnnie athletics in which student-athletes have an exceptional athletic experience but get so much more," said St. John's president Michael Hemesath in a statement. "Jim is a coach with an exceptional number of wins but legacy extends far beyond the basketball court. In the finest liberal arts tradition, Jim is an educator whose legacy is seen in the hundreds of young men he has influenced throughout his career."

Health not a factor

According to the St. Cloud Times, despite being scheduled for hip replacement surgery at the end of March, Smith said health was not a primary factor in his decision. He has already battled through prostate cancer in 2003 and a fractured femur in 2009.

"I look forward to spending more time with my wife, Adrienne, our seven children, 12 grandchildren and four great grandchildren," Smith said. "It has been a great ride and never thought I would be at Saint John's for 51 years."

He led the Johnnies to a 16-10 record (14-6 MIAC) last season – his final one at St. John's. He will remain on staff through June 30th when his contract expires.

The university says a search to find Smith's successor begins immediately.

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