Former SJU hoops manager named first female NFL assistant coach

By Joseph Staszewski

A former St. John’s basketball manager landed a historic job in the NFL.

The Buffalo Bills named Red Storm alum Kathryn Smith, 30, the first female full-time assistant coach in NFL history Jan. 21. Smith, a 2007 St. John’s graduate, is the team’s new quality control-special teams coach. The upcoming year will be Smith’s 14th year in the NFL after spending her first 12 seasons working for the New York Jets.

“It’s really just been an amazing opportunity more than anything,” Smith said in an interview with WGR radio in Buffalo. “Obviously, you want to grow your role. You want to go into the next thing. It’s an entry-level coaching position. I’m going to start here on the coaching track and go from here.”

Smith worked with current St. John’s men’s basketball assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih as the hoops teammates’ student manager under Norm Roberts for their four undergraduate years. Adelmassish said the developments in Smith’s career were something he expected.

“We knew back then with her affiliation to the Jets and working with the Fan Fest stuff, she was really geared towards working in the NFL,” Adelmassih said.

Smith began her career in 2003 as a gameday intern for the Jets. She was elevated to a college scouting intern for two years before the Jets promoted her to a player personnel assistant after graduation. In 2015, she was the Buffalo Bills administrative assistant to head coach Rex Ryan. The move was something she believed could happen.

“I was surprised, yes, but also no, in the sense Rex is very open-minded,” Smith said. “Rex and I have worked together for a number of years. I know him very well. We have a good working relationship.”

Ryan determined she has earned more responsibility and a piece of history.

“Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff,” he said in a statement.

Adelmassih said Smith’s success is no surprise, knowing the type of person she is and the work ethic she showed with the Red Storm.

“I am ecstatic for Kathryn to receive this opportunity,” Abdelmassih said. “She was always hardworking, goal-oriented and she always wanted to be in sports in some capacity. This is a great day for women in sports.”

Her hire continues the trend of women making inroads in “male dominated sports.” Becky Hammond and Nancy Lieberman are assistant coaches in the NBA and last year, the NFL hired Sarah Thomas as its first female referee beginning in the 2015 season. In Smith’s eyes, she is happy to be part of the start.

“I might be the first, but I think very quickly there are going to be many other women in the league,” she told the team’s website. “So I may be the first, but I don’t think I’ll be the only one for very long.”