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‘We Got a Great Coach’: John Smith Speaks on David Taylor Hire

‘I look forward to just sitting back and watching it and enjoying Oklahoma State wrestling.’

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[Courtesy of OSU Athletics]

David Taylor never wrestled for John Smith, but when he acknowledged the legend at his introduction news conference Friday, Taylor admitted he couldn’t help but call him “Coach.”

After one of the greatest wrestling careers ever and a 33-year stint leading Cowboy Wrestling, Smith’s opinion in Stillwater still matters, even after retirement. And even for his successor, who grew up admiring Smith and was once recruited by him as a top high school prospect.

“Coach Smith, a complete legend,” Taylor said. “I can’t even call him John Smith. He’s a coach. He’s never even coached me before, but that’s the kind of aura that he has.

“To be able to be honored to just be considered in this situation, to follow somebody — this job hasn’t been available for 33 years. He was the greatest American wrestler that we’ve ever seen. So, Coach, just thank you for everything you’ve done — the impact you’ve had on the wrestling community, the impact you had on me. You set the bar high of wrestling, coaching. I’m very, very excited for this opportunity, and I’m not gonna take it lightly. I just want to say thank you.”

Smith was in attendance Friday and met with media after Taylor’s news conference. As Larry Reece mentioned earlier that morning, it was only 25 days ago Smith was in the same room for his retirement news conference, leading to this new era.

“It’s exciting,” Smith said. “It’s what you hope for. These guys are good — got a plan. They’re good. It’s gonna be a fun journey watching them — while I’m retired. Just impressive. You heard Coach DT, he was sincere, knows how to win, knows how to deliver it. We got a great coach.”

Smith said he trusted athletic director Chad Weiberg and wasn’t too involved with the search and hiring process the last three weeks between Smith’s retirement and Taylor’s hiring. He also doesn’t envision a specific role within the program in the future during retirement.

“Whatever I can do,” Smith said. “These guys gotta get on their feet and get here and take it over. …

“Their message today was strong. Really strong. I think we all, after listening to the press conference, we’re all going, ‘Hey, this is in good hands.’ It’s in good hands. For me, coaching 33 years, that’s all you want. I want him to be a better coach than I was. I think Chad Weiberg is committed like no other A.D. I’ve ever had. Honestly. He wants to win. He wants to create the best scenario for Oklahoma State wrestling. There’s pride in what the program’s done and he took the responsibility to go through the process of trying to go find the best coach for Oklahoma State.”

The parallels between Taylor and Smith were hard to ignore Friday. Both took over OSU for their first head coaching jobs at the end of successful wrestling careers. Smith was 26 when he took the job. Taylor is 33. Both even had their own signature shoes that kids they recruited — or will recruit in Taylor’s case — grew up wearing as they idolized the Olympic gold medalists turned coaches.

“I’m sure he’s gonna go through some times when he feels like an administrator more than a coach,” Smith said. “And that’s required. When you’re wrestling and you’re trying to be the best in the world, there’s not a lot of administrative things that you’re doing other than taking care of yourself, taking care of your health, eating well. You’re gonna go from that to you got 40 athletes that are calling for your help.

“Just listening to him talk, he gets it. He knows the challenge ahead. And he’s not afraid of it. He said some things that were powerful. I look forward to just sitting back and watching it and enjoying Oklahoma State wrestling.”

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