A tribute to Harvey Smith: Revered coach, educator and broadcaster elevated those around him  

  • Harvey Smith —Courtesy

  • Harvey Smith —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 4/28/2022 5:18:10 PM

To say Harvey Smith was a winner would be an understatement.

As the Concord High boys tennis coach, his teams amassed a record of 527 wins and 30 losses over three decades, one of the highest winning percentages ever recorded. His teams won 14 state championships, and he was awarded New Hampshire Coach of the Year honors 16 times. He was named the National Coach of the year in 1988 after his players notched a 112-match winning streak.

Before tennis, Smith coached cross country, where his teams ran to state championship titles year after year.

Yet, winning was secondary. The impact he had on the lives of the people around him, especially the athletes he coached and the students he taught at Concord High, was what mattered most.

“He was always about the kids and he put the kids first,” said Concord baseball coach Scott Owen, who was a former student of Smith’s. “He cared about people. No one was bigger than anyone else, when you were talking to him, that was the most important thing that was going on.”

Smith died Monday at the age of 82 after an illness.

Those who knew him best remember his guiding hand.

“As I got to know him as a colleague, I saw that he had tremendous compassion for kids,” said former Concord Tennis Coach Dave Page, who played for Smith in the 80s. “There were a lot of kids, not even tennis players, but a lot of kids around school that were struggling and he was supportive of them and there for them in a lot of ways that a lot of people didn’t know about. He cared a lot about kids in Concord and beyond.”

Page met Smith at a beginners’ tennis camp at St. Paul’s School. Page was just 11 years old.

“He’s had a really tremendous influence on my life,” Page said. “He started off as a coach to me and over time, he became a mentor and a friend. Outside of my immediate family, I can’t think of anyone who’s had a bigger impact on my development than Coach Smith.”

On the courts, Smith preached mental and physical toughness.

“There was a lot of running involved and if you swore or lost your composure, there was even more. I remember my first time at a Concord High practice and I went home and started throwing up – it was on a different level,” Page said. “The focus that he put on discipline and commitment it not only helped us become a stronger team, but helped us on later in life and shaped us into more productive people.”

Smith hand-picked Page to take over the tennis program at Concord High, which is a moment that he cherishes. Just because he was hand-picked doesn’t mean Page hadn’t earned it, a reminder that everything with Smith had to be earned in order to be given.

“There was a time early in my career where I got cut from the team in part because of my attitude, it wasn’t the greatest. For the next year, I determined that I was going to come back and make it, I really worked harder than I ever had for anything athletically. I remember when the try outs were finished and I made it, he made a special mention of me and how much I had improved. That moment I think I’m as proud of that as I am with anything in my life.”

Smith was more than a coach, he was also the voice of Concord sports. Smith parlayed his talents into a successful radio broadcasting side-gig where he called hockey games alongside play-by-play announcer Jim Rivers. The duo called over 1,000 games from multiple sports together, including Concord High football, and Smith won three “golden mic” awards for his coverage.

“The important aspect of Harvey’s broadcast was two-fold. First, he may have been the most prepared partner I ever worked with. Nobody outworked Harvey when it came to preparation,” Rivers said. “Secondly, it was his true love for the student-athlete, many of whom he had in class.”

Back then, few if any radio announcers interviewed students before, during, or after a game. Rivers said it was almost an unheard-of thing to do.

“Harvey Smith may have been the first broadcaster in New Hampshire, or certainly one of the first, to include the student-athlete in our broadcasts,” Rivers said. “He had a great knack for getting them to open up on the air.”

Before he died, Smith’s children were able to visit him after being apart for two years during the pandemic. Smith and his wife Betty met in high school and were married for 60 years.

“He was also a devoted family man and an incredibly loving husband and father who was way ahead of his time in his commitment to quality time with his family,” his obituary said. “His children loved seeing their parents still so much in love, even after 60 years of marriage.”

Rivers recalled his long drives with Smith.

“We spent many hours on the road, to and from games, which provided much time for conversation,” Rivers said. “He was a pretty private person but one thing was clear, he was very proud of his three children, the challenges they each faced in their lives and the way they handled them successfully.”

Owen was Concord’s assistant coach when longtime coach Warren Doane became ill. Owen said Smith checked in on him after he took over the program and gave him words of encouragement.

“He loved teaching, he loved coaching, he was a great guy,” Owen said. “He would tell me, ‘Coach Doane was a great coach, but you’re not Coach Doane. Take from him what is important and put that into what you do’ and I think I try to do that to the best of my ability.

“As for Harvey as a human being, one only has to look at the respect his students and players had for him as a teacher and mentor,” Rivers said. “There are many people who will miss Harvey Smith. The press box at the Everett Arena will never be the same.”

Page agreed.

“There are a lot of people my age and older, across the generations, that are carrying a part of him with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Matt Parker bio photo

Matt Parker is a sports reporter at the Monitor and started in August 2021. He is an Ohio native and relishes being from the Buckeye state. A proud graduate of Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio, he served as the sports editor for the student-run newspaper, The Post, from 2019-20. When not at a game or chasing around a coach, you can catch him playing his guitars or looking for the next Peanuts memorabilia piece to add in his growing collection.

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