Credit - Arkansas Athletics

IU basketball legend Keith Smart earns first win as college coach minutes from boyhood home

Good things happen to Keith Smart when he returns home to Louisiana.

35 years ago Smart came to New Orleans as a junior on the IU basketball team and hit the most famous shot in program history to lead the Hoosiers to the 1987 national championship.

On Saturday the Baton Rouge product secured his first win at the college level as the interim head coach of Arkansas led the Razorbacks to a road upset of No. 12 LSU.  Smart took over for head coach Eric Musselman, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Smart grew up eight minutes from the LSU campus and the trip to Baton Rouge also gave him a chance to see his mother, who hadn’t seen in three years due to the pandemic.

“I only spent about an hour and a half close to two hours with her yesterday and then she came to the game and I got a chance to spend some time with her now before we get on the bus to leave to get to the airport,” Smart told reporters after the game.

LSU didn’t recruit Smart out of high school or as a JUCO product out of Garden City Community College. He made them regret it in the 1987 Elite Eight when he scored 10 points and hit two free throws in the final minute to help IU rally to defeat the Tigers.  That sent the Hoosiers to New Orleans.

“It was good to beat them (LSU in 1987), because I had played against so many of those guys, and plus being able to go to the Final Four,” Smart said earlier this week in anticipation of his return home on Saturday. “LSU was a team that we had to beat to get that opportunity.”

In that 1987 win over LSU, Indiana trailed by 12 points in the second half before pulling off an improbable comeback.

Smart’s win over LSU on Saturday followed a similar script.  Arkansas trailed 56-48 with under seven minutes remaining before the Razorbacks used a 17-2 run to close the game and secure the come-from-behind victory.

Smart was famously a McDonald’s employee without a clear direction in his life three years before his legendary moment at the Louisiana Super Dome in 1987.

His fairy tale story took another unpredictable turn this week when he took over for Musselman and led the Razorbacks to where else, but Louisiana.

Although he grew up minutes away, Saturday was the first time he attended a game at the LSU Maravich Assembly Center.  He finally made it there as, of all things, the Arkansas head coach.

Once again, Smart was able to celebrate in Louisiana.

The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”