By Keith Mills
Snuffy Smith, meet Paul Sherry.
"In 1997, Doug Dodrill, one of my former players at UMBC, asked me if I could come out and help the coach of his daughter's AAU team hold tryouts," Jim "Snuffy" Smith said. "I asked him how much time he would need. He said, 'Two nights.' Well, three months later I finished up."
Three months and now nine years as the head coach of the girls' team at Bryn Mawr. Sherry coached that AAU team and several others. Snuffy became his assistant and close friend, resuming a coaching career that now spans 25 years.
Sherry grew up in the San Francisco area and was a Golden Gloves boxing champion. Snuffy grew up in Hampden, moved to Edmondson Village and eventually played basketball for the legendary Ed Hardigan at Loyola High School.
Sherry came to Baltimore with his wife, Jan, in 1985 to work as a sportscaster at WJZ-TV Channel 13. Snuffy went on to play college basketball at the University of Baltimore and eventually coached at Virginia Commonwealth and UMBC.
Sherry left TV for a brokerage firm. Snuffy left coaching for Exxon and a career as a corporate executive. Sherry became a tireless coach and volunteer in the Towson Recreation Council. Snuffy eventually took over Sherry's Under-13 AAU team.
Sherry died of cancer in 1999, and Snuffy became a great source of strength for Jan Sherry and the four Sherry children: Theresa, Laurie, Valerie and Jack.
"The impact that Paul Sherry had on the Towson community was enormous," Snuffy said. "At his funeral there were thousands of people and 80 percent of them were youngsters he coached. Sometimes he coached two sports at once. He also lined the fields and ran the leagues."
Because of Sherry's commitment to the Towson community, it was decided to put on a basketball event in Sherry's honor -- the Paul Sherry Shootout, which last weekend celebrated its seventh birthday.
"Paul's spirit of volunteerism is what this event is all about," Snuffy said.
So is giving. Each year the event committee picks a beneficiary for the money raised. In 2000 the recipient was the Gilchrist Hospice Center, the rehabilitation facility where Sherry spent his final days. One year later it went to Maryland 9/11 Survivor Victims Fund.
In 2002 the beneficiary was Rayna DuBose, the former Oakland Mills and Virginia Tech basketball star whose career was cut short because of meningitis. Three years ago it went to former Mercy High basketball player Joyce Green, a multiple sclerosis victim who used the money to buy a mechanized van.
Last year, Fisher House at Walter Reed Medical Center received a check for $7,500, and this year Snuffy and Jan Sherry will give the Youth Dreamers program at the Stadium School in East Baltimore a check for more than $10,000 -- bringing the seven year total to over $40,000.
Jim Smith was a 13-year-old playing basketball on the playground at Saint Bernadine's Catholic Church when he was given the nickname "Snuffy."
"Back then everyone had a nickname," Snuffy said. "Dingbat, Pigeon. I was the only guy who didn't have one. One of the guys said he liked the 'Snuffy Smith and Barney Google' comic strip and started calling me Snuffy. It stayed with me."
That was in 1955.
A few years later, Snuffy was playing basketball for Loyola High and Hardigan, one of the most successful coaches ever in Baltimore high school sports. It was under Hardigan that Snuffy caught the coaching bug.
"I was the sixth man on our team," Snuffy said. "I figured the best way for me to help out our team was to study the guy I was going to play and then go in and shut him down."
After playing at the University of Baltimore, Snuffy eventually joined Paul Baker's staff at UB in 1969. In 1974 it was on to UMBC as an assistant to Billy Jones, whose Retrievers teams of the mid- to late-'70s were among the best Division II teams on the East Coast.
Snuffy helped recruit John Goedeke and Jack and Howie Kane out of Parkville and Doug Dodrill out of Calvert Hall, a signing that would eventually lead Snuffy to Sherry's AAU team and the coaching job at Bryn Mawr.
Their AAU teams included Kelsey Twist, who played lacrosse at Stanford and is now back teaching and coaching at Roland Park under head coach Scott Buckley. Esther Ehrmann was a teammate of Twist's at Roland Park. She is also the daughter of former Baltimore Colts defensive tackle Joe Ehrmann and is an assistant to Buckley. Dodrill's two daughters went to different schools. Lauren Dodrill was an All-Metro standout at Roland Park who went on to a stellar career at Franklin and Marshall, while her sister Andrea was a 1,000-point scorer at Bryn Mawr. Andrea is now a senior for Nancy Funk's Johns Hopkins Blue Jays.
Dodrill grew up in the Brooklyn section of South Baltimore. His coach at Calvert Hall was Joe "Snooky" Binder, who was also Snuffy's backcourt mate at the University of Baltimore. Fate? No, just Baltimore basketball.
"Baltimore's a big, small town," Snuffy said. "In basketball everybody knows everybody and that's how I got Doug -- because I played with Snooky Binder."
The AAU teams that Sherry and Snuffy coached were always among the best around and eventually led Snuffy to Bryn Mawr, where he coached all three Sherry girls.
Theresa Sherry was an All-Metro choice in soccer, basketball and lacrosse before heading to Princeton, where she was a first team All American three years in a row. Now, she's an assistant coach at the University of California. Laurie Sherry graduated in 2001 and is now teaching in Europe while Valerie is a sophomore at Brown. Jack Sherry is a junior at Boys' Latin.
Snuffy left UMBC in 1980 and joined J.D. Barnett's staff at Virginia Commonwealth. One of Snuffy's fellow assistants at VCU was Tubby Smith, who went to Great Mills High in southern Maryland and went on to win a national championship at Kentucky. Snuffy spent three years at VCU before coming back to Baltimore in 1984 as an executive for Exxon.
"I decided to give business a try," Snuffy said. "But basketball was always in my blood."
Boys' Latin and Loyola were a part of the seventh Sherry Shootout. Sal Schittino and James Davenport each scored 14 points as Josh Davalli's Dons beat BL, 55-39, in the middle game of the three-game event. In the first game Bryn Mawr senior Allie Emala poured in 28 points as the Mawrtians beat Notre Dame Prep, 51-40. Emala is the daugther of Dave Emala, the former All-Metro third baseman at Gilman who went on to play for Johns Hopkins.
Catonsville edged Roland Park, 39-37, in the windup. Amirah Tucker led the Reds with 15 points while Mike Mohler's Comets, a Sherry Shootout participant since the first year, were led by junior Jessica Nonn's 21 points.
But in the end it was the 115 kids at the Stadium in East Baltimore and the Youth Dreamers program who were the real winners.
"Jen Nelson is the reason we connected with the Stadium School," Snuffy said. "She went to Bryn Mawr and is on the Board of Directors. They are doing some real good things over there."
And so is the man they call Snuffy, now 64 years old and savoring another chance to coach the game he loves.
"Up until I took the job at Bryn Mawr, I had only coached the guys in college," Snuffy said. "It was an adjustment. I love it. We have a great group of girls and it keeps me young. I was born in 1942 and for almost my entire life Loyola had just two coaches during that time -- Ed Hardigan and Jerry Savage. Jerry's now coaching the girls at Maryvale, so when we play them now I call it the Senior Bowl."
Issue 1.35: December 21, 2006