British Wheelchair Basketball were deeply saddened to learn that ex-GB captain and coach Nigel Smith passed away on 24 December 2019; a highly influential and much-loved member of the wheelchair basketball community.
Nigel represented Great Britain for 16 years as a player, including four as captain, before continuing to share his passion and knowledge for the sport as a coach for both Great Britain’s Senior Men and Senior Women teams.
On the court, the four-time Paralympian helped Great Britain achieve multiple international successes, including a silver medal at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, along with European Championship gold and World Championship silver.
Nigel spent six years as assistant coach of Great Britain’s men’s team from 1999 to 2005, leading the team to a World Championship silver medal in 2002 and bronze at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.
In April 2013, he was appointed Head Coach of the GB Women’s team alongside close friend and long-time teammate, Joe Jayaratne. Just three months after taking-up the role, the pair helped guide the side to a bronze medal at the 2013 European Championships.
Away from the international stage, Nigel was a founding member of Aces Wheelchair Basketball Club, where he played a key role in the club’s successes both as a player and as a coach.
His impact extends far greater than just within the club he founded with Nigel having a huge influence within the wheelchair community in the UK.
Commenting on Nigel’s influence on his career, British Wheelchair Basketball’s Head of Coaching and Tactical Development Haj Bhania OBE said:
“Nigel was my wheelchair basketball mentor and introduced me to the game. He invited me to join Aces WBC following completion of my wheelchair basketball coach award that he tutored. He also asked me to be his assistant at the inaugural U22 World Championships and helped and encouraged me in my role as U22 coach thereafter.
“Nigel had a great feel for the game and for people. An experienced player and coach, his approach was support the player, develop the club, improve GB. I remember watching a copy of the ‘Big 8’, televised by C4 and won by Aces. One of the commentator’s evaluation was the achievement was down to Nigel and his outstanding ability as a point guard, playmaker and coach. A technically and tactically skilful player and coach.
“He always planned and prepared his coaching to help the players and the club achieve domestic and European success. We had many coaching discussions on our travels to London, Oldham and Sheffield, the great rivalries of the time and post-game analysis on the way back and planning for the next practice.
“He expected commitment and during his time as GB Men’s team coach, many players wanted to join Aces, but he only agreed if players committed long term and not just to get into the GB team. In return, he committed to helping players develop high level fundamentals and achieve their potential. A trait I continue to try to deliver to athletes, coaches and support staff.
“Nigel was passionate about cricket and the England team. We went to Lords on a couple of occasions with Joe Jayaratne and their conversations about the game and players bordered on controversial and always entertaining. Nigel always acknowledged quality players in all sports and could evaluate their particular attributes.
“My wheelchair basketball coaching pathway was started and supported by Nigel and I continue to use and deliver those useful lessons and experiences gained all those years ago. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity he provided.
“I extend my thoughts and wishes to Dot, Connie and Immie.”
The thoughts of everyone at British Wheelchair Basketball are with Nigel’s family and friends at this incredibly sad time.