ATHENS — Kirby Smart has had countless opportunities to become a head coach over the years. Only 39-years-old, he has passed on more “dream jobs” in the last three or four years than most college assistants will get in a lifetime.
But as the right-hand man for the most powerful and successful coach in college football, Smart could afford to be choosy. So he always held out for just the right one. And like Mark Richt before him, the right one was Georgia.
“I waited on a great opportunity, which is here at the University of Georgia right now,” Smart told reporters on Monday about Georgia.
“(There’s) no better place in the country to be … (Georgia is) one of the top programs in the country, top storied programs, very fertile recruiting ground, very supportive administration. So I’m so excited to be here right now and be here before you guys.”
Smart got his start in coaching as a Georgia administrative assistant under Jim Donnan in 1999. After short stints at Valdosta State, FSU, LSU and Georgia (one year as running backs coach), Smart joined up with Nick Saban and the Miami Dolphins. He followed Saban from Miami to Alabama, where he coached for nine years, the last eight as defensive coordinator.
During Smart’s time at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has won three BCS National Championships, three SEC championships and six Western Division titles. Currently ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, Alabama (12-1) has been ranked in the final Top 10 rankings the last eight years in a row. The Crimson Tide defense currently ranks first in the nation in rushing defense (74.3 ypg), second in total defense (258.2) and third in scoring defense (14.4 ppg).
Smart was recognized as the 2012 Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and won the 2009 Frank Broyles Award, which also goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.
As the running backs coach at Georgia in 2005, Smart coached current Bulldogs running backs coach Thomas Brown and his unit finished third in the SEC with an average of 162.2 yards rushing per game. Other backs under Smart’s charge at that time were Danny Ware and Kregg Lumpkin, both of whom went on to NFL careers.
A native of Bainbridge, in extreme Southwest Georgia, Smart is the son of longtime high school coach Sonny Smart. He was recruited to UGA by Ray Goff and earned four letters while playing safety for the Bulldogs. He’s fourth on the all-time list with 13 career interceptions.
An academic All-SEC honors recipient for four years, Smart received his BBA degree in finance from UGA in 1998 and a masters in physical education from Florida State in 2003.
Smart is married to the former Mary Beth Lycett of McDonough, who was a four-year letterwinner on the Georgia women’s basketball team from 2000-2003. The couple has three children: twins Weston and Julia (7) and son Andrew (3).