1978 NBA All Star Game
Moment of Brilliance For a Buffalo Brave
By CHRIS BROUSSARD
Published: Sunday, March 14, 2004
The game was filled with some of history's greatest players: Julius Erving, George Gervin, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Rick Barry, Bill Walton, Bob Lanier. Yet on Feb. 5, 1978, Randy Smith was better than all of them.
His jumpers were the softest, his dashes to the basket the quickest, his impact on the game the greatest. Smith scored 27 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and gave out 6 assists to lead the Eastern Conference All-Stars to a 133-125 victory over the West and earn the game's Most Valuable Player award.
''That was probably the greatest moment of my career,'' Smith, who played from 1971 to 1983, said in a telephone conversation last week. ''I was there with the best players, and it was an opportunity to showcase my talent. Being a seventh-round draft choice, it was a brilliant opportunity to show everyone that I belonged in the N.B.A.''
Smith, a 6-foot-3 guard who played in Buffalo, San Diego, Cleveland and New York, had proved he belonged long before his tour de force in 1978. Though unheralded out of Buffalo State, Smith was immediately productive and blossomed into a 20-point, 5-assist guy in earning two All-Star berths from 1975 to 1979.
After retiring, Smith, 55, dabbled in real estate, worked for the N.B.A. as a director of player programs, then tried his hand at coaching, taking over the Hartford Hellcats of the Continental Basketball Association in 1995. He said a philosophical difference with management led to his firing after a 5-11 start.
''I thought I wanted to coach, but that situation soured me on coaching,'' Smith said.
''If the right situation came along at a Division I college program or something like that, I might be interested in it, but nothing else. Coaching is too political, too much of a serious grind, and when you get to my age, the last thing you want to be doing is grinding. I wouldn't want to coach in the N.B.A. for all the tea in China.''
Smith found his niche shortly after leaving the C.B.A. when he began working as a host at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., in 1996. Eight years later, he is the casino's director of player development. Put simply, his job is to hobnob with the high rollers.
''I make sure they're taken care of and make sure they want to come back,'' Smith said. ''I may call them on a weekly basis, tell them about the fantastic events we're having, send a limo to pick them up or comp them a suite. We have big events for them, like a New Year's Eve party at the casino. It's all based on their level of play. I'm developing them to come back to Mohegan Sun rather than the casino down the street. It's great to work in the gaming industry. I'll probably stay here until I retire.''
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