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St. Helena girls basketball

St. Helena head coach Darol Smith watches his players run drills at a recent practice. Smith has the Saints off to their best start in years. 

St. Helena girls’ varsity basketball coach Darol Smith will not return to the sidelines this season. He underwent surgery last week after suffering a knee injury and a subsequent infection and will miss the last several weeks of the basketball season recovering.

Jessica McCornack and the girls JV coach, Dave Pauls, will fill in as interim coaches for the remainder of the season.

“Darol is going to be done for the year,” St. Helena Athletic Director Tom Hoppe said on Tuesday.

Hoppe was with Smith, 84, when the injury occurred. They were attending a San Jose Sharks hockey game last Saturday when Smith’s knee gave out, Hoppe said.

Smith then developed an infection because of the injury, which required “aggressive” surgery on his knee to fix.

Hoppe has not spoken to Smith directly but has been in constant communication with Smith’s wife as he recovers. He confirmed on Tuesday that Smith will not coach again this season. He added that Smith will need to undergo several weeks of physical therapy to fully recover from the surgery.

It’s unclear whether Smith will return to coach the Saints next season.

This was Smith’s first year at the helm of the Saints’ varsity team. He came to St. Helena in 2016, following Kate Shipp-Roberts, to whom he served as an assistant coach for years.

The Saints are 4-14 this season and 0-7 in the North Central League I. They played at Lower Lake Tuesday night, and Hoppe said that he informed them of the news prior to the game.

In five decades on the sidelines, Smith has coached boys and girls basketball at several different high schools in the North Bay. He was also an assistant coach at the College of Marin when the Mariners went 33-5 and advanced to the California Community College State Championship Final Four for women’s basketball.

He led girls’ basketball teams at Terra Linda, Casa Grande, Elsie Allen and San Rafael. On the boys’ side, he spent several years as the head coach at Terra Linda, where, in 1988, he led the Trojans to the state finals. He also coached the boys’ team at Lick-Wilmerding in San Francisco.

Before getting into coaching, Smith earned a scholarship to play basketball at the University of San Francisco, where he played with NBA legend Bill Russell in the early 1950s. He was also a standout prep player in San Francisco during high school.

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Sports Reporter