Gregg Smith, former offensive line coach
University of Idaho: 1982-1985
Washington State: 1987-1988
University of Miami: 1989-1994
Seattle Seahawks: 1995-1999
Oregon State: 1999-2002
San Francisco 49ers: 2003-2005
University of Idaho: 2006
Arizona State: 2006-2011
Gregg Smith is 71 and has been retired for six years, but the question still comes up.
“Everybody asks me, do you ever have any desire to go back and coach again? And I say, no, I’ve had enough,” said Smith, who was an offensive line coach in college and the NFL for more than 40 years.
Now an avid fly fisherman on Central Oregon lakes, Smith would rather try to outsmart rainbows than opposing defenses.
Smith and his wife, Gloria, first put down roots in the Sunriver area 14 years ago, and Gregg settled there permanently in 2011 after his last job as the offensive line coach at Arizona State.
Smith followed head coach Dennis Erickson for most of his coaching career. At the University of Miami from 1989 to 1994, they won two national championships. At Oregon State from 1999 to 2002, they turned the perennial-doormat Beavers into a force in the Pac-10 Conference and bowl-game regulars.
At the college level, Smith had the chance to coach the current head coaches of Oregon and Oregon State.
Mario Cristobal — who was named the Oregon head coach last week after Willie Taggart left for Florida State — started at left offensive tackle for three years at Miami under the guidance of Smith. The Hurricanes won national championships in 1989 and 1991 with Cristobal at tackle and Smith coaching the line.
“He was such a fierce competitor,” Smith recalled of Cristobal, who will coach the Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State on Saturday. “I don’t think there was ever a day went by when we were practicing that he didn’t get in a scuff with somebody. He was always right there. He ended up really being a great leader for us during that time.”
Smith also coached Cristobal’s older brother on the offensive line: Lou Cristobal is now a police officer in Dade County, Florida.
“They kind of went in two different directions, but they both came out of the same mold,” Smith said this week from a hospital bed at St. Charles Bend, where he was recovering from a knee-replacement surgery. “They were both tougher than hell and they were great kids to coach.”
Mario Cristobal was the head coach at Florida International from 2007 to 2012, leading the Panthers to their first two bowl games in program history. But he was fired in 2012 after a the team finished 3-9.
“That was kind of a tough gig,” Smith said. “I’m glad to see him get another chance. He’s a great guy, a great recruiter and an awful good football coach. He’s got a lot of stuff in front of him. I think he’ll do excellent (at Oregon). He gets along really well with kids, and he’s got one of those personalities that kind of blends in with players.”
When Erickson’s staff, including Smith, arrived in Corvallis in 1999 they were taking over a Beavers program that had not played in a bowl game since 1965. In the first season under the new staff, Oregon State finished 7-5 and played in the Oahu Bowl. In 2000, quarterback Jonathan Smith (no relation to Gregg) led the Beavers to an 11-1 record and a 41-9 blowout of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. That season, Gregg Smith was a finalist for the Broyles Award for the top assistant coach in college football.
Gregg Smith said he always knew Jonathan Smith would become a coach one day, as the quarterback would often come into his office to talk pass protections or simply look for some direction from the veteran offensive line coach.
“He was hungry to learn,” Gregg Smith recalled. “He and I actually spent a lot time together talking. I know that’s one thing that he always wanted to do. He always wanted to be a coach.”
Jonathan Smith was named the Oregon State head coach last month after four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Washington under head coach Chris Petersen.
“Obviously, getting hooked up with Petersen has helped his career a lot,” Gregg Smith said of the younger Smith. “It’s given him a chance to just grow and get better, and I think he’ll do an excellent job there (at OSU). The Oregon State job is pretty … you know, it’s gonna take a while. It’s not going to change overnight.”
Smith added that he believes the former quarterback will be successful at Oregon State because of his history in Corvallis and his close ties to the program. The Smiths actually coached together when Erickson, who was head coach at Idaho from 1982 to 1985, returned to Moscow to coach for one season in 2006. At that time, Gregg Smith was the O-line coach and Jonathan Smith was the quarterbacks coach for the Vandals.
The former coach said he stays in touch with both Jonathan Smith and Cristobal via Facebook, and he said he called them both personally to congratulate them on their new head coaching jobs.
“Oregon State means something to him,” Gregg Smith said of Jonathan Smith, “where a lot of people get hired there and they end up struggling just because they don’t have a lot of knowledge about Oregon State and Corvallis and what it’s really all about.”
Gregg Smith was born and raised in Oklahoma, and he moved to Idaho when his father took a high school football coaching job in Caldwell. Smith would go on to play tight end at Idaho and then came to Oregon to take his first coaching job as an assistant at Sunset High in Beaverton. After that, he coached at Buhl High in Idaho from 1973 to 1981.
Smith met Erickson though his father and first coached with Erickson at Idaho in 1982. That was the start of a career in which he would follow Erickson to seven college coaching stints and two in the NFL — the Seattle Seahawks (1995-1999) and the San Francisco 49ers (2003-2005).
“I got in touch with him and said I’d like to come up and go to work for you,” Smith recalled of first meeting Erickson. “I’ll do whatever, I’m not asking for a lot of money. I’m just looking to try to get into the college level. It worked out really well. I was there in 1982 and he hired me full time the next year.”
Smith did at one time have aspirations of becoming a head coach, and in 1993, while at Miami, he interviewed for the job at Boise State, but was not hired. In 2003, when Erickson left Oregon State for the 49ers, Smith interviewed for the head coaching job at Oregon State, but Mike Riley was hired for his second tenure there. So Smith followed Erickson to San Francisco.
“I had gotten pretty close with (then Oregon State athletic director) Bob De Carolis and had a great interview with him,” Smith said. “I think I was probably pretty close to getting the job, but not having any experience (as a head coach), I think they leaned toward Riley a little bit. But it was a great career, you know, I coached for 43 years and I have a lot of great memories with it.”
Now Smith is enjoying his time in Central Oregon. When he is not fishing or golfing, he is spending time with his family — he and Gloria have three adult children and four grandchildren.
And he also watches football.
“Now I get to sit back and second-guess those guys on TV,” Smith said with a laugh, “the way they second-guessed me all those years.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,