Ex-MSU coach Smith to Valenti: ‘Rant on, big boy’

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Former MSU coach John L. Smith, right, went 22-26 in four seasons.

Ten years after the “Rant Heard ‘Round the State,” John L. Smith finally got his chance to fire back.

On 97.1 The Ticket on Friday afternoon, reporter Jeff Riger and colleagues surprised drive-time host Mike Valenti with an interview with the former Michigan State football coach.

Smith, MSU’s coach from 2003-06, told Valenti to, “Rant on, big boy, rant on.”

On Sept. 23, 2006, at Spartan Stadium, Notre Dame beat Michigan State, 40-37.

Two days later, an absurdly emotional Valenti went on the air and delivered an 18-minute diatribe on the loss in a “monsoon,” the rant highlighted by saying he’d rather have H.R. Pufnstuf and Teddy Ruxpin coaching the Spartans’ defense.

During the rant, which quickly went viral, co-host Terry Foster tried to calm him down.

Valenti wasn’t having it — and continued to deliver such a full-throated rant, he actually missed work later in the week after losing his voice.

Interviewed by Riger on Friday morning, ahead of this week’s big MSU-Notre Dame showdown in South Bend, Smith, 67, was a good sport.

“It’s kind of laughable, embarrass-able, laughable, if that’s ... what you’ve done. God bless him,” Smith said, according to a transcript on the station’s website. “Let him put it on his headstone and rest in peace, I guess.”

Smith, 67, was fired following the 2006 season and finished with a 22-26 record as the Spartans coach.

He was asked if he thought Valenti might’ve played a role in his firing.

“He may have, at least, contributed to it,” Smith said. “Again, if that’s your claim to fame, then God bless you.

“He never played the game. ... That’s where he belongs, up in the stands, ranting.”

Mark Dantonio replaced Smith as Michigan State’s coach, and has turned the program into a perennial national powerhouse.

Since leaving Michigan State, Smith has coached at Arkansas, Fort Lewis and, now, is in his first year with Division II Kentucky State.

“It brings back old memories. We were probably doing the same thing, wishing we could rant,” Smith told Riger and 97.1 webmaster Evan Jankens in the interview.

“It’s great to see that you’re so famous now after your rant of I-don’t-know-how-many years ago. It’s great to see you’re still doing well. I wish you the best, and rant on, big boy, rant on.”

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984