Jay Smith, longtime college coach and former prep star, diagnosed with prostate cancer

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Jay Smith sits in his office in 2014 during his time at Detroit Mercy, talking with former Titan star Ray McCallum Jr.

Jay Smith, a legend in Michigan basketball circles, revealed publicly this week that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June.

Smith had surgery in Chicago on Thursday and the recovery period is expected to be four to six weeks, he said in an interview with WWMT, the CBS affiliate in West Michigan.

Smith said he plans to be back in time to coach his Kalamazoo College men's team, of which he's led since 2016. He said he found out about the diagnosis during his annual physical, so doctors are hopeful they caught it early.

"Nobody wants to hear the words 'cancer,' nobody does," Smith told WWMT. "Fear goes through your veins. It scares you."

Smith, 57, has coached college basketball since 1984, and was head coach at Division II Grand Valley State from 1996-97 and Division I Central Michigan from 1998-2006. Smith coached the Chippewas to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

He also was an assistant coach at Kent State (1984-89), Michigan (1989-96) and Detroit Mercy (2008-16), before taking over at Kalamazoo College, an MIAA private school. Smith's son, Cooper, is a freshman guard on the team.

"That's probably the toughest. I still get emotional with it," Smith told WWMT, talking about when he had to tell his children of the diagnosis.

"You want to be there for your children, man."

Smith also was a legendary high school player at Mio Au Sable, scoring 2,841 career points, a state record that still stands today.

Smith played collegiately at Bowling Green and Saginaw Valley State.

His Kalamazoo College team was 8-17 last season, a one-win improvement over his first season. He's eager to get back to work and show continued progress.

"I feel like I'm a fast healer," Smith told WWMT. "If everything goes as planned, you know, I'll be back. That's the plan."