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How former Detroit Mercy coach Smokey Gaines paved the way

DETROIT – The basketball world is in mourning after former University of Detroit Mercy basketball coach Smokey Gaines lost his battle with cancer.

Gaines was a star at Detroit Eastern High School and at LeMoyne-Owen College in Tennesssee.

He would live his childhood dream of playing for the Harlem Globetrotters in the late-60s, and with the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association. In 1973. Gaines received a phone call from Dick Vitale at the University of Detroit.

Gaines joined Vitale’s staff as an assistant and when Vitale went to the Pistons, Smokey became the University of Detroit’s first Black head coach.

He also get the team to the NCAA tournament and, two years later, Gaines left to become the head coach at San Diego State University.

Gaines had a long career in basketball, but he never forgot where he came from and always stayed close to the Detroit Mercy Titans program.

Smokey Gaines smoked the nets and opened doors for others. He died Sept. 5 at the age of 80.


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