Coach Danny Smith Steps Back from Football

Mr. Danny Smith, head football coach and co-director of the athletic department, is stepping down from his position as head football coach after 21 years of service to the program.

Working at the school was never Mr. Smith’s plan. Twenty-one years ago, he rejected the offer of the previous football coach, Mr. Rick DelPrete, to lead the school’s team. However, after a trip to Lakeville, Mr. Smith fell in love with the beauty of campus and passion of the students and faculty. He said, “I got home and I told my wife, ‘I know I said I wasn’t interested, but I’m interested.’”

When asked about the reasoning behind his decision to step down, Coach Smith said, “ I always promised myself I’d rather step out too early than stay on too late. We also have an exceptional young coach on our faculty right now, Dempsey Quinn, who has both experience and a passion for the game. I really admire his approach to the game and to the kids, and I feel as though he does things the right way. I felt that he was outstanding, and it would be a shame for Hotchkiss to miss out on having him take over.”

Mr. Dempsey Quinn, currently the assistant football coach, dean of the Class of 2024, and instructor in math, will be taking over as head football coach next year. He expressed a deep respect for Coach Smith as both a coach and a person. He said, “He has his priorities in order, and there’s nothing that’s ever going to question that or knock them out of line.  Coaching is a passion and he loves it, but he never lets it get in the way of developing young men first, and football players second.”

One of the highlights of Mr. Smith’s career was his legendary 2008 season, during which the football team went undefeated (9-0) and finished with a New England Prep School Championship. Mr. Cooper Puls ’11, who played for Mr. Smith and now coaches alongside him, says that Mr. Smith’s legacy and impact on the Hotchkiss football program extends far beyond any title, championship, or achievement. He said, “With my own ears I’ve heard players say that they think of Coach Smith as a second father. I’ve watched kids testify to their teammates that his passion for football was the reason they came to Hotchkiss and was the reason they’ve become who they’ve become. I’ve witnessed boys transformed into men by four years under Coach Smith’s tutelage. Under him, the football team is more than a team—it’s a home.”

As for the legacy that he hopes he left behind, Mr. Smith says that it’s ultimately for others to decide. “I gave it everything I had. …  The great coaches are the ones that can motivate and inspire and get a kid to believe in himself, and maybe for a little while, believe that he’s better than he actually is. And hopefully, I was able to do that for some kids here at Hotchkiss.”

Henry Emswiler ’22, co-captain of the football team, testified to how Mr. Smith motivated and inspired him. Emswiler said, “[Coach Smith’s] greatest strengths are his abilities to form an unbreakable brotherhood, build the character of every player on the team, and set them up for success in the years to come. Not only does Coach Smith make winners and competitors on the field, he makes them better people in every aspect. Each player he coached was lucky to have him as their coach and they will remember him forever. He will always be a part of the lives of his former players and the program.”

Coach Smith emphasized his gratitude for his wife, Mrs. Carrie Smith, saying, “There’s been a lot of long days and a lot of time away from home but her support has been amazing and a big part of our Hotchkiss experience.”

Mr. Smith expressed how coaching at Hotchkiss has been a blessing. “The tradition of football at Hotchkiss is a long one. I always say, it’s the oldest sport at Hotchkiss, going on 130 years, and if I was able to play a small part in that tradition, I’d be really honored.”

Mr. Smith will continue to serve with Ms. Robin Chandler as co-director of the Athletic Department.