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Mike Smith has won everywhere he has been. The new Ole Miss softball head coach has compiled a career record of 748-224 (.770 winning percentage) in 16 years as a head coach at the NAIA and Division I level. He also has an NAIA Championship to his credit. Despite all that success, his focus remains on the process of building a program.

"The Ole Miss program will be similar to what I was trying to build at McNeese State," Smith said. "I'm going to do the best I can to mold these kids into quality individuals as well as quality softball players, and become ambassadors for the game and for the university and try to win an SEC Championship. We're going to focus on the process. We're not going to focus on the outcome. We're going to focus on creating a great culture and take it one step at time and doing the little things to be successful.

"It's about getting better every day. I try to preach one percent better and give me 100 percent for that day, and let the rest take care of itself. We're going to focus on the little things and focus on the process. When we do those things, we're going to be successful."

Another part of the process is to engage Rebel Nation and grow the program's fan base as other Southeastern Conference programs have done in recent years, which centers on community involvement and outreach.

"We're going to get involved in the community, and we're going to be out and about," Smith said. "We're going to have open practices, and I'm going to invite them to come watch and see what we're about. I want us to be out there supporting our student-athletes on campus. 

"We're going to be involved with the entire aspect of The University of Mississippi and Ole Miss athletics. Our softball team will be a part of Rebel Nation. With developing a fan base, wins and losses are part of that, but it's about getting people on board with your direction and what your plans are."

A program that has not advanced to the NCAA Tournament in its 18-year history, Ole Miss is coming off a 22-31 season, including a 3-21 mark in SEC play, but Smith knows the promise and potential of the program. He saw it from the opposing dugout when McNeese State played at Ole Miss during the 2012 season. He also knows it from conversations with his fellow SEC coaches.

"Ole Miss is rich in tradition, just athletics in general and the history of the university, and competes in the SEC," Smith said. "It's considered one of, if not the top conference in America. I have really good friends who are coaches in the SEC, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to coach against them. I respect them so much, and they have been mentors to me. Now, I'm going to be in the opposing dugout and coaches' box and coach against those people who I respect tremendously."

Among them are Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly, who has followed a similar career path to Smith, from an NAIA Championship at Pacific Lutheran, to continued success at Chattanooga, to six Women's College World Series appearances and two national runner-up finishes at his most recent stop with the Lady Vols.

Smith turned California Baptist into a softball powerhouse, having led the Lancers to eight consecutive NAIA World Series appearances and an NAIA national championship in 2009. 

From there, he left his San Diego roots for McNeese State in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to begin building his Division I coaching career, as he guided the Cowgirls to back-to-back Southland Conference regular season championships.

"I took a leap of faith and left a pretty good job in California to come to McNeese State and try to build a program and have success there and see what happens," Smith said. "I wanted to give myself an opportunity to do that. 

"Every step of the way, at the different jobs and the different responsibilities I have had, and the different people I have made contact with, and what my players have taught me over 16 years of coaching has prepared me and molded me for the opportunity to coach at Ole Miss and build this program into an SEC and national contender."

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