David Gaines, former Harlem Globetrotter, college coach, dies at 80

DETROIT -- David "Smokey" Gaines, a former Harlem Globetrotters and ABA player who coached at Detroit-Mercy and San Diego State, has died. He was 80.

Gaines died Saturday of cancer, his family said. He also contracted COVID-19, The Detroit News reported.

A star guard in high school, the Detroit native was an All-State selection in 1959 and went on to star at LeMoyne-Owen College in Tennessee. He was a member of the Globetrotters from 1963 to 1967 and also played briefly for the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association before turning to coaching.

Gaines began coaching as a part-time assistant under current ESPN analyst Dick Vitale at Detroit-Mercy in 1973 and took over when Vitale stepped down after the 1976-77 season.

"I'm so saddened to just receive a call from Darryl Gaines son of David Smokey Gaines that his Dad has just passed from cancer," Vitale wrote on Twitter. "Smokey a Hall of Fame Harlem Globetrotter was a dear friend who played a vital role in my career while at the University of Detroit. Pls God May he RIP!"

Vitale shared several tweets on Gaines.

Gaines compiled a 47-10 record in two seasons at Detroit-Mercy before taking the job at San Diego State in 1979, becoming the first Black Division I head coach in the state. His 20 victories in the 1981-82 season marked the first time the program had reached that plateau since joining Division I for the 1970-71 season.

In 1984-85, the Aztecs went 23-8, 11-5 in the Western Athletic Conference, won the conference tournament and played in the NCAA tournament, and Gaines was named conference coach of the year. In eight seasons with the Aztecs, he compiled a record of 112-117.

In 2006, Gaines was inducted into the Harlem Globetrotters' "Legends" Ring, which honors those who have made a major contribution to the success and development of the organization.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.