Roan Mountain, Tennessee native Sonny Smith was a head basketball coach for 22 seasons where he mentored and coached NBA Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley and NBA legend Chuck Person.
Smith served as a basketball head coach for 22 seasons. Best known as the head coach at Auburn from 1978 to 1989, he also coached at East Tennessee State (1976–1978), finishing with a 30-23 record and VCU (1989–1998).
He was hired by Auburn University in 1978. Under Smith’s leadership, Auburn secured its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1984, led by player Charles Barkley. Smith was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1984. In 1985, Smith led Auburn to win the SEC Tournament championship, winning four games in four days for the first time in tournament history. He then coached that team to the Sweet Sixteen of the 1985 NCAA Tournament. Smith would go on to lead Auburn to three more NCAA Tournament appearances. His streak of five straight NCAA Tournament appearances is the longest in Auburn history. Smith was again named SEC Coach of the Year following the 1988 season. To date, he is the only coach in Auburn men’s basketball history to have three consecutive 20-win seasons (1984-1986).
When Smith transferred to VCU, he led the team to win the Colonial Athletic Association regular season and tournament titles in 1996. He was named CAA Coach of the Year at the end of the season.
Smith retired with an overall head coaching record of 339-304. Post-retirement, Smith joined former Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson for a sports talk radio show, “The Sonny and Wimp Show” on WJOX-AM in Birmingham, Alabama. The show ran for more than six years. Smith currently works alongside Andy Burcham, providing color commentary for Auburn men’s basketball games on the Auburn Sports Network radio broadcast.
Welcome to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020, Sonny Smith.