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Athletics Campus & Community

Legendary head coach Jim Smith to receive SJU Presidential Medal

Jim Smith has received many honors over the course of nearly nine decades. But the legendary former Saint John’s University basketball coach says the one he will receive this week might be the most meaningful of all.

Smith, who served as the Johnnies’ head coach from 1964 to 2015 and finished his career with 786 career victories – the most of any coach at any level in Minnesota collegiate history – will be presented with the Saint John’s University Presidential Medal by College of Saint Benedict and SJU President Brian Bruess, Ph.D.

The presentation will occur at halftime of the top-seeded Johnnies’ MIAC semifinal matchup Thursday night at Sexton Arena. The game starts at 7 p.m.

“This is probably the best one,” said Smith, who coached a number of other sports and served as athletic director during his time at SJU. “I can’t think of anything bigger, because this isn’t just a recognition of my coaching, but of my time in the community as well. That makes it even more special.”

Smith was stunned when Bruess phoned to inform him of the award. His only regret is that his wife Adrienne – who died in August 2023 – won’t be present to share it with him.

“I was truly humbled by it,” Smith said. “It’s such a fantastic honor. This award belongs to her just as much as it does me.”

Bruess said the award could not go to a more deserving individual.

“Jim Smith is an extraordinary husband, father, teacher, mentor and coach whose devotion to his family and athletes extended far beyond elevating them on the playing field,” Bruess said. “He was also instrumental in enriching their lives.

“He truly embraced, supported and rewarded the goal that student-athletes at Saint John’s are expected to be winners in the classroom and on the court.”

Smith said the honor only further solidifies the tight bonds that connect him to Saint John’s.

“Our family has been so involved with the Saint John’s community for so many years now,” he said. “And it’s that community aspect that makes this place so special. I can’t think of a better place to have been all this time. 

“Outside of my own family, Saint John’s has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Jim Smith