STARKVILLE — Minutes after being introduced as Mississippi State’s new men’s golf coach, Dusty Smith laid out his top priorities: Recruit. Recruit. Recruit.
“I kind of have three little steps,” Smith said. “You have recruiting, player development, and just creating a competitive culture. Recruiting is the main thing. You want to bring players in that will be the perfect fit for this university. You want to recruit on a national level. You want to expose your brand and have people want to come to Mississippi State.”
Smith, who was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, replaces Clay Homan, who announced his retirement last month after 14 seasons at MSU. Homan’s final squad finished last at the Southeastern Conference Championship.
On the other end of that spectrum was Smith, who worked with head coach Scott Limbaugh to lead Vanderbilt to its first SEC championship in golf last month.
MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said the school conducted a national search for its new coach. Smith, who joins baseball coach Andy Cannizaro as Cohen’s first two hires, has been charged with rebuilding the program and competing for championships.
“What I have found (through the hiring process) is an incredible crop of outstanding golf coach candidates in the country,” Cohen said. “What was even more amazing is the interest level our golf program brings. It is incredibly exciting because of our facilities, because of the history of our athletics department, because we have a great community, and because of the Mississippi State family.”
Smith said MSU’s home courses — Old Waverly, Mossy Oak, and The Barn — are some of the nation’s best-kept secrets. Cohen said MSU has worked hard to help shape some of the nation’s best golf venues.
“(The courses) aren’t going to be a secret anymore,” Smith said. “You have to go out and promote your brand. We have some of the best facilities in the nation. It’s easy to sit up here and say we’re going to win the SEC Championship and national championship, but that step doesn’t just happen. It starts with doing the little things correctly, and we’re going to focus on what we can control. We’re going to focus on the little things, and that’s how we’re going to build this culture.
“We will recruit players who fit the coaching staff, who want to be pushed and who want to be excellent in everything they do. With that mind-set and the resources at Mississippi State, the sky is the limit. We can’t wait to put our heads down and get to work. At the end of the day, you don’t talk about championships; you go to work, you wake up every day with a championship mind-set and a championship lifestyle.”
A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Smith is a 2007 graduate of Lamar, where he earned All-Southland Conference honors three times. He finished 10th at the NCAA Championship his junior year. Lamar finished third in the team competition his senior season.
Smith earned honorable mention Ping All-America honor as a junior.
Before coming to Vanderbilt, Smith was an assistant for the Lamar men’s and women’s golf teams for three seasons.
In six seasons at Vanderbilt, Smith helped the Commodores win 12 team tournament titles and 10 players earn medalist honors. Seven golfers earned All-America status, including three first-team selections. He also helped 11 players earn All-SEC accolades, with four earning first-team honors.
Vanderbilt played in its school-record fourth-straight NCAA Championship this past spring. It was the school’s third-straight appearance in the match-play portion of the event.
“When we took over at Vanderbilt, we would go to the tournaments,” Smith said. “We may have only had one kid in the field that we’re watching, but at the time it didn’t matter to us. For all of the younger kids that might not have thought about Vanderbilt, they were seeing us there. When they started seeing we were the first ones on the driving range in the morning and the last ones to leave, they’re going to start seeing that brand and they’re going to start to become interested.”
Cohen said Homan was very involved in the process and “wants to see the program succeed.”
Smith said his interactions with MSU women’s golf coach Ginger Brown-Lemm were instrumental in his decision to take the job.
“Ginger and her staff have done a tremendous job of getting that program turned around,” Smith said. “They go everywhere to find players. Once you get that Mississippi State brand out there, it starts happening.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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