MarquetteHoops.com: Tell us about the beginning. Rick Majerus recruited you and actually left two months after you committed. Why did you end up sticking with Marquette?
Tony Smith: Initially, I was pretty much set on staying in state and playing close to home. Like you said, Rick Majerus and Ric Cobb were the ones who recruited me. I still wanted to come after Rick left because I was from the area and I remember watching these guys growing up. We used to go to Marquette games and Bucks games when I was younger. I wasn't so heavily recruited nationally by the Kentuckys and the North Carolinas of college basketball that Marquette seemed like a good fit.
MarquetteHoops.com: So much of tonight is about tradition, with yourself and the 1974 team being inducted into the Marquette Hall of Fame. Coming to Marquette during a bit of a down period, did the tradition still mean something to you?
Tony Smith: The tradition was still strong enough that I could recognize it. We were ten or twelve years removed from some of the really good years, but it was still right there. Marquette was definitely still on the map. I do not think I was ever too conscious of the whole tradition mystique. In fact, I was just talking to my high school coach the other day and he told me, "You know Tony, you weren't really that into basketball when you were younger." I guess I never realized that. I guess thinking back on it, I wasn't so enamored with the big name schools. I didn't get recruited by the big name schools but I didn't really care. I really liked Marquette and that was the idea, to stay and play close to home.
MarquetteHoops.com: Talk about your improvement as a player at Marquette. Many people said that the one thing that improved the most was your ball handling.
Tony Smith: (laughs) My ball handling improved because it had to. I had no choice. I was thrown in at point guard because of lack of personnel that we had at that position. I had some games where I had ten turnovers. That's just what happens when you try and learn a new position, especially a position as important as point guard. In high school, I never played the point. I was not used to having the ball in my hands at all times. It's a lot of responsibility. Not only do you have to take care of the ball, but you have to get others involved and get the ball into the post—all of that stuff was new to me. In regards to ball handling, it was just a necessity that I improved.
MarquetteHoops.com: Moving from college to the NBA, what was the biggest adjustment that you had to make?
Tony Smith: The NBA was obviously a great experience. When you get to go and visit all the places I did, its pretty fun…I got to Paris during my second year in the league. As far as the basketball experience, everyone always wants to know what it was like going against Magic and going against Jordan. I always tell them, when you are in there as a player, the last thing on your mind is, "I'm lacing it up against a legend." When you play, you play against another guy, period. He is trying to go at me and I am trying to go at him. I do not have time to be concerned about who the guy is. But those guys will take it to you. I remember playing against them because they really took it to rookies. They really got after you if you were young and inexperienced. The transition to the pros was pretty smooth. In college I was definitely more of an offensive player. When I went to the NBA, I had to become a defensive guy. The NBA is just a matter of survival to try and get the minutes.
MarquetteHoops.com: What does it mean, looking back on your experience, to come back to Marquette and receive an honor like this?
Tony Smith: It's unbelievable. As this day has come closer, I have started to think about it some more. When I first found out that I was going in, I thought, "Me?" I didn't know I was regarded this highly. I was surprised. There have been so many good players to go through here. You look at the names like Doc Rivers, Bo Ellis, Dean Meminger and you name it. These are the cream of the crop at Marquette and it's really hard to see yourself in that same light. It's easy to look at a player like Wade and say, he is good, he will be in the hall of fame some day. But when you have to look at your own career like that, it's a lot harder. As a player, I just went out there and tried to do my best to win.