John L. Smith is everything we want in a coach.
He's funny. He's accessible. He's self-deprecating.
Oh yeah, he wins too. Michigan State's coach has more career victories than Howard Schnellenberger, one less than Phil Fulmer. His winning percentage is better than West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez, coach of the nation's No. 4 team.
|John L. Smith is 21-20 at MSU, right in line with the program's longstanding mediocrity. (Getty Images)|
Suddenly, the Michigan State coach is Robin Williams with a whistle. A national joke. A graying pinata.
You know what? Judging by the way he has handled the past two weeks, Smith is everything we should want in a person too.
"It's the best thing that ever happened to me," Smith said when asked how he has handled the criticism. "I'll be a better person, husband, father because of this. You don't change your priorities. But it emphasizes and (strengthens) the ones you have."
Wow. ... best thing that ever happened to me ...? Smith didn't duck, dodge, or hide during this recent downturn.
Which is great. Which is also why we should at least admire the man for putting himself out there to beat with a stick.
A talk-show host in the state came to what sounded like tears during a 15-minute rant about the Spartans following the Notre Dame game. Smith's team showed more fight in keeping Illinois from planting its flag last week than during the game.
You know what Smith did? Slapped himself in the postgame. The symbolism was so obscure that the network that broadcasted it on an endless loop doesn't get it.
After the Notre Dame game, Charlie Weis claimed he was slapped during a sideline melee. Smith was mocking Weis and shifting attention away from his players without saying a word.
"I only regret that they were not intelligent enough to pick up the joke and what it was about," Smith said.