Since becoming City basketball coach, Omarr Smith has written his thoughts of each season on social media.
“I told myself I wasn’t going to rush it…when the words come, I’ll reflect on it,” Smith said earlier this week. “Right now, I want to keep living in the moment.”
It was a season to remember for the Knights, who had their finest run in nearly a decade. Smith is the Baltimore Banner/Varsity Sports Network Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
City finished 28-0, capped with the Class 3A state championship. The Northeast Baltimore school, affectionately known as the “Castle on the Hill,” placed No. 2 in the final Banner/VSN Top 15 poll.
After its 2021-22 season ended with a bitter overtime loss in the 3A state semifinals, Smith and his squad were determined to redeem themselves.
“I learned a lesson from the year before like the guys did,” said Smith, whose team blew a 9-point fourth quarter lead against Southern Maryland’s Huntingtown. “Being transparent, I owned up to things.”
The Knights were perfect in Baltimore City play, capped with a 52-46 victory over eventual 1A state champ Edmondson in the city title game at Morgan State University. City also defeated Edmondson, 78-73, during the regular season.
During warmups, Smith sat on the Knights’ bench, listening to Young Jeezy on his Apple earpods.
Smith’s cool and calm demeanor yielded a confidence that resonated with his senior-laden squad.
“Coach O is a quiet storm,” said City senior forward Cam Horton. “He kept reiterating to us ‘what’s your motivation, what’s your edge.’”
City defeated then-reigning city champ and three-time reigning state 1A state titlists Lake Clifton and Anne Arundel County regular season champ Broadneck in the regular season. The Knights’ closest match was against MIAA B Conference semifinalist Archbishop Curley (58-55) and son, Omarr Jr., at the Basketball Academy at Dunbar.
City completed its campaign with a 67-54 victory over Montgomery County’s Damascus at the University of Maryland, becoming the first undefeated Baltimore City state champion since 2014 when the Knights went 27-0 and won the 3A title.
“We never had a conversation about going undefeated. We talked about taking one step at a time, not overlook anybody, being self-disciplined,” said Smith. “It kind of worked out that way.”
Smith was an assistant under Daryl Wade in 2014. He said both squads’ scoring versatility is what made them unique.
“They loved to see each other to get credit and it was genuine,” Smith said of this season’s edition. “That’s the hard part for a lot of teams, basketball is the easy part.”
A star guard on City’s first state semifinal team in 1997, Smith went on to help Bowie State University to its first Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament championship and first Division 2 Final Four berth in 2003.
After playing professionally in Germany for six years, Smith stopped to be closer to his son (born in 2006). He coached the girls’ program at now-defunct Baltimore Leadership Academy for one season before returning to his alma-mater as a boys assistant in 2011.
Smith was assisted this season by Evan Singleton, Warren Smith (Omarr’s brother) and Derrick Wilson. In six seasons, Omarr Smith is 98-21.
“Last year, I was focused on giving our opponents credit,” said Smith. “This year, I let them know how confident I was…it was our time.”