In 119 games, Gene Smith never led his team in scoring. He started eight games his senior year, and fouled out of more games than anyone else on the team that season.
Because for anyone who saw him play, there is no doubt that Gene Smith is one of Georgetown's all-time greats.
Smith was not heavily recruited out of high school, but coach John Thompson knew his defensive intensity fit Georgetown like a glove. Hoya fans saw Smith as a defensive specialist from the start: in a January 1981 game versus Villanova, he held Stuart Granger scoreless while forcing numerous Villanova offensive fouls. Equally adept at steals and assists, Smith started the final eight games of the 1980-81 season, finishing third in team assists.
Smith was injured through much of the 1981-82 season, and excepting a 10 point effort versus Syracuse, scored only 19 points in 20 games. Coach Thompson knew Smith's leadership would pay dividends, and named him a team captain his junior season. He responded as the team leader in steals and assists, with a nearly 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. With fellow classmate Fred Brown injured through much of the season, Smith was a key leader among a team which started four freshmen and sophomores, earning the Hoyas 22 wins and a second round NCAA tournament finish.
With Brown, Michael Jackson, Horace Broadnax, and David Wingate seeing time at guard for the 1983-84 season, Smith's time was limited but never his intensity. As a sixth man, Smith averaged 22 minutes a game for the Hoyas, leading the team in steals and finishing third in assists. While he didn't get many scoring opportunities, Smith made the most of it, averaging 59 percent from the field in conference play.
Smith's greatest game remains the stuff of NCAA legend. Though he only played 17 minutes in the 1984 NCAA semifinal, Smith helped lock down the Cats' backcourt, and the rest of the team soon followed. Trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, Georgetown put on the defense and Kentucky could not respond. The Wildcats missed its first 12 shots of the second half, and 18 of its final 21, in a 53-40 upset to the Hoyas.
"No one had ever seen anything like it," said Miami coach Bill Foster. "A [Kentucky] team with three NBA first rounders...goes 16 minutes into the second half and scores two
Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall attributed the finish to "extracerrestrial forces", but it was Smith's spark that allowed the Hoyas to respond. Unfortunately, Smith suffered a foot injury in the second half of the game, and could not continue to the final versus Houston.
"I wasn't able to play in the NCAA Championship game because of an injured ankle," Smith recalled in a 1994 feature in the Georgetown media guide. "I remember sitting in the locker room after the game. Coach [Thompson] and I shook hands and he looked at me and we shared an understanding that meant a lot to me. Among all of the hoopla that goes with winning the national championship, we had a very quiet, very private moment where we sort of thanked each other and I still think of it as one of the best moments of my collegiate career. That's the sort of thing that nobody outside
of the program knows about, but it connects everyone who plays for Coach."