Heart Attack Claims Former Clipper Derek Smith
Derek Smith, a starting forward on Louisville’s 1980 NCAA championship team who later played for the Clippers, has died at 34, apparently of a heart attack.
Smith, who was an assistant coach with the Washington Bullets last season, died Friday while on a cruise with his family, Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein said. No other details were available.
Smith averaged 14.8 points as a sophomore on the Cardinals’ 1980 national championship team. He averaged 15.5 points as a junior and 15.7 as a senior, finishing as the fourth-leading scorer in school history with 1,826 points.
“He came from a modest background and was a self-made success story,” Louisville Coach Denny Crum said. “He succeeded at everything he tried . . . earning his degree, becoming a great player in college and as a professional, and most recently as a coach.”
Crum said that Smith was “as tough a competitor as I’ve ever seen. It’s a tremendous loss for his family, and all of us who cared for him.”
Smith, from Hogansville, Ga., played nine seasons in the NBA with the San Diego and L.A. Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics. He averaged 22 points per game for the Clippers during the 1984-85 season.
Smith kept close ties to Louisville. He organized and sponsored a local celebrity golf tournament that benefited a nonprofit corporation that delivers medical care to more than 30,000 people a year at five facilities. Smith recently vied for an assistant coaching job at Louisville, but the position went to former teammate Jerry Eaves.