Allie Smith, a coaching presence in St. Tammany Parish for nearly half a century and a member of Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame, died Wednesday of heart-related issues, according to friends.

He was 73.

Smith was the defensive coordinator for the Covington football team for several decades, and was the head coach at the school from 1996-2001. He was part of a staff that that led the Lions to a state championship (1976) and three other state finals.

Smith also was the track coach at Covington from 1964-94 and had 18 district championships and three regional championships to his credit. He also served as the Covington cross country coach, as well and earned 14 district coaching honors during his stretch at the school.

“Allie was a great man,” said longtime friend and former Covington football coach Jack Salter. “He wasn’t just a good coach but a good person.”

Smith coached elsewhere in the parish after he left Covington, but he said several years ago that his heart was always with the Lions.

“I enjoyed every day teaching and coaching there,” he said for a story several years ago. “It’s the school where I grew up and where I’ve worked most of my adult life.”

For most of his childhood, current Covington football coach Greg Salter said “Coach Allie” was a constant in his life. The younger Salter said his family, which has known Smith for decades, was struggling with his death.

“Grandpa (Jack) was the coach, but coach Allie was always around,” Greg Salter said. “He was a part of our family. As a player, I was a cornerback, and he was my coach. And then, when I got into coaching, he asked me to be part of his staff. I only got to spend one year coaching with him, but he was such a great influence in 2001, just like now.

“He will be missed, without a doubt. What a man.”

When Smith announced his retirement in 2002, he was lauded by then St. Tammany Parish Councilman Richard Tanner as “probably the best biology teacher at Covington High when I was there.”

Longtime Slidell football coach Wayne Grubb said he has many good memories of playing teams that Smith coached at Covington. The Lions and Tigers have the longest standing football rivalry in St. Tammany Parish.

“Whether it was Allie or Jack Salter, they always came with the best game,” he said. “We had to be ready to play them. Allie got the best out of his kids. He was good coach and a good guy.”

Covington athletic director Darryl Graham, the quarterback on Covington’s state championship team, said Smith’s death was a great loss for the community.

“Losing Allie is tough,” he said. “He was such a presence at Covington, in football, and in track. But I can tell you that even when he left here, he always bled blue and gold. You don’t see guys coaching that long any more.

“The school and the town are a better place because of what he did for all of us. He will be missed.”