Smith closes book on Joe Horne event, prepares for next year

December 26, 2012 11:10:48 AM

Adam Minichino - [email protected]


Sammy Smith's cell phone can rest for a little while. 


After a year's worth of hard work and arranging all of the details for the 16th annual Joe Horne Christmas Invitational, the Columbus High School boys basketball coach took a respite from planning for his program's signature event to enjoy the holiday with his family. 


Smith and his Falcons will be back at it this week to prepare to play Friday at the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at The Hump. Between today and Friday, Smith undoubtedly will crank up his cell phone and get back to work on next year's Joe Horne event. He said Monday he already has received commitments from several of the schools that participated in the two-day showcase that featured some of the top girls and boys teams in the region. 


"I think it went great judging from the comments I received from every coach and every fan in the community who stopped me," Smith said. "The next question they were asking is how are you going to beat it next year?" 


Smith laughed at that thought because he knows the reputation of the annual tournament makes his job a little easier. The fact that he was able to secure some of the top teams in the state of Mississippi --┬álike then-No. 1 Amanda Elzy and then-No. 2 Provine -- as well as top programs from the state of Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee made this year's event an extremely competitive affair. Smith praised the efforts of the countless sponsors, like the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wendy's, and McDonald's, just to name a few, and individuals who donated time, service, and financial assistance to make the event so attractive to out-of-state teams. 


"My assistant coaches and my administration (at Columbus High) do more than me. I want people to understand that," Smith said. "There are a lot of other people who have done tremendous work for me and for us. 


"The most satisfying thing is seeing the people and have them ask me and thanking me and wondering what's going on next year. If it wasn't like that I would feel disappointed." 


Smith said the great thing about all of the questions about 2013 was that those individuals also asked what they could do to make the next Joe Horne event even more special. The tournament is named after Joe Horne, a longtime supporter of the Columbus High boys basketball program and CHS athletics. A portion of the proceeds go to the Joe Horne Scholarship fund, which benefits a graduating senior at Columbus High. 


Smith's Falcons split two games, beating Marion (Ark.) on Friday and losing to Tuscaloosa Central (Ala.) on Saturday. The Columbus girls lost to Meridian on Friday and Wenonah (Ala.) on Saturday. 


Smith was pleased with how his team played in both games and said the Falcons tired and didn't execute as well as they needed to down the stretch in a 65-59 loss to Tuscaloosa Central. He also was pleased with the number of senior and junior college coaches who attended the event. He feels their attendance is just another indication of the talent that the Joe Horne Christmas Invitational attracts. 


Now the trick is to get back on the cell phone and deliver another talent-filled field for 2013. 


"We don't want teams like Callaway (which was going to be at the tournament but went to a tournament in Florida) and Carver (Ala., which went to a tournament in Hawaii) to have to go to Hawaii or Florida," Smith said. "We want to try to bring a California team to Mississippi. When we do that, we think the community as a whole will say, 'Oh My God,' " The economic impact on the city of Columbus if we get that team out of Texas or California for one or two days will be thousands of dollars generated for the city of Columbus."

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.