By Joe Henricksen
The Rich Central basketball program enjoyed its greatest success in the mid-1980s. The Olympians hope a key figure from those glory days can restore a program that hasn't had a whole lot of success of late.
Bobby Smith, the Hoops Report has learned through sources, is expected to be named the next head coach at the Olympia Fields school. Smith has worked on and off at Rich Central for the past 15 years and is currently an instructional assistant in the English department and has coached AAU basketball in the south suburbs.
Smith was awarded the job after many in the south suburbs believed highly-successful Rocky Hill, the former Thornton, Julian and Crete-Monee head coach, was believed to be a frontrunner and a finalist for the job.
While Rich Central has struggled in recent years, the program has been considered one with great potential and with a solid basketball history. Coach Ron Brauer, who coached 14 seasons at Rich Central, had a great run, compiling a 202-57 record over a 10-year period (1979-1988) that included five regional championships and two sectional titles.
Both Lee Boyko, who coached in the 1990s, and Glenn Hefferman, had some success at Rich Central as well. But since winning three straight SICA South titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005, the program has had just one winning season in the past six years and finished 12-15 this past season.
Smith was a star at Rich Central in the mid-1980s for Brauer. As a junior, the 6-0 guard teamed up with superstar Kendall Gill during the 1985-86 season and helped lead the Olympians to a 31-2 record and second-place finish in state. Rich Central lost to Marcus Liberty, Levertis Robinson and Chicago King, the nation's top-ranked team, in the state title game, with Smith scoring a team-high 12 points in the championship game loss.
Smith came back the next season as a senior and led Rich Central to a 23-4 record while earning all-area and all-state recognition. The Olympians, however, were upset by Homewood-Flossmoor in the regional final. In three seasons on varsity, Smith was part of a program that went 76-10.
After starting his college career at Oral Roberts, Smith transferred to Northern Illinois and played a role in helping the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament in 1991.