First, we asked Stephen A. about returning to his alma mater with the “First Take” crew.
“I can’t wait. You know, I’ve never had the pleasure of being able to bring ‘First Take,’ a live national television platform, to Winston-Salem State,” Smith said. “It’s just the latest way that I honor the late, great coach Clarence ‘Big House’ Gaines, and all the people at the university have done so much for me throughout my entire adult life.”
Gaines, who died in 2005, is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and coached the WSSU Men’s Basketball Team from 1946-1993. He won an NCAA Championship in 1967 and coached Stephen A. when he played basketball for the Rams.
“All the men ever asked of me was to make sure that I never forgot Winston-Salem-State and never forgot HBCUs and that I would do what I could to uplift and really, really carry the mantle of really bringing attention and notoriety to HBCUs. And that’s what I’ve strived to have done,” Smith said. “That’s where my focus has lied ever since I arrived. It was Winston-Salem State, and Clarence ‘Big House’ Gaines had a lot to do with that.”
Stephen A. also touched on how he got his start as a journalist right here in the Triad.
“I think it started with my critical and persuasive writing professor, who also happened to be the editorial page editor of the Winston-Salem Journal,” Smith said. “His name was John Gates. He passed away years ago. God rest his soul. But he told me he looked at an essay that I wrote and felt I was a natural-born sports writer. Those were his words.”
Stephen A. goes on to describe how, after initially being brought on as an intern, the former editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, Joe Goodman, led an effort to pay for a tutor to help him with his writing.
“Ultimately, hiring me as as an intern as well, keeping me there, taking care of me and hiring a tutor for me behind my back, I didn’t know,” Smith said. “I thought I was paying for the tutor because the tutor was only charging me $5 an hour, but she charged $50 an hour, but Winston-Salem Journal, led by Joe Goodman, had picked up the $45.”
You can watch or attend “First Take” live from WSSU’s campus on Tuesday. The program will run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on ESPN.