Simeon coach Robert Smith wins his 500th game

In his 19th and final season leading the Wolverines, Robert Smith has seven Public League championships, six state titles and 500 wins after an 82-36 romp past visiting Brooks.

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Former Simeon players come out of the stands to congratulate Robert Smith on his 500th win.

Former Simeon players come out of the stands to congratulate Robert Smith on his 500th win.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

When Robert Smith made Leonard Thomas his first hire as head coach at Simeon, they talked about goals.

“What we wanted to do was to be able to win the most city championships, the most state championships and win 500 games,” Smith said Tuesday after reaching that milestone.

In his 19th and final season leading the Wolverines, Smith has seven Public League championships, six state titles and 500 wins after an 82-36 romp against visiting Brooks.

“I mean, we were just talking about this in conversation,” Smith said of those high goals. “We didn’t know if it’d come to fruition and be real.”

But the first win came in his first game — which also was Derrick Rose’s varsity debut — against Thornwood at Curie in 2004. Since then, the victories have come in bunches while the losses (94) have been few and far between.

Smith succeeded coaching legend Bob Hambric, who went 546-136 with one state title in 24 seasons. Hambric was on Smith’s mind lately.

“He gave me a chance to even be able to do this,” Smith said. “A lot of the stuff that I did over my career has been just to make him proud. I’m pretty sure he’s proud of this moment right now for me.”

Smith, whose team is 20-1 and ranked No. 1, is chasing one more city title and one more state championship. So while there were photo opportunities and commemorative T-shirts to hand out after Tuesday’s win, there also was more looking ahead than looking back.

“I probably won’t be able to really enjoy this until it’s all over,” Smith said. “You say you want to accomplish things and then they come. . . . When this whole thing is over and I get a chance to sit back and debrief, I’ll be like, ‘Whoa, I was able to so that.’ ”

That Smith was able to reach all these milestones at his alma mater makes it that much sweeter.

“It’s an honor to even be able to coach here at this school, and to be able to coach in the Public League,” he said.

Senior guard Jalen Griffith, a four-year varsity player, has been around for a lot of wins. He scored a game-high 17 points and was glad to be able to help Smith make history.

“The way that we got the 500th win was great, but we’re not done,” Griffith said.

Smith’s success is built on communication, according to Griffith.

“Really, just his uniqueness of talking to players and being able to know what the players can do, putting them in certain situations to make the team better,” Griffith said. 

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