Lisa, who married Mike 30 years ago, laughs when that quote is relayed to her.

"Since we first started dating, it's always been a part of my life," she says. "And the kids as well. Leigh-Taylor was only four days old when we took her to the 1985 state semifinals. He puts such an incredible amount of time and effort into it, and he believes in those kids."

The feeling seems to be mutual. Lisa said that last Father's Day, former Crabber Tyrel Wilson dropped by for dinner and Almondo "Muffin" Curry called to say hi.

Of course, Smith's remarkable run nearly ended eight years ago. On Oct. 23, 2002 -- two days before the Crabbers' eighth game of the season -- Smith called a news conference at the Holiday Inn to say he was stepping down at the end of the year.

For Crabber Nation, it was a crusher.

"I had to come home and break the news to my family," says Danny Mitchell, Smith's longtime assistant. "Cindy (his wife) was tearing up, and Matthew (his son) was crying. And he said, 'You know, I always wanted to play for Coach Smith.' That sums it up. So many kids want to have a chance to play for Mike."

Less than two months later, despite (or maybe because of?) missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, Smith changed his mind. Three years later, he won state championship No. 12.

So when will Mike Smith finally step down?

He'll turn 70 during the 2011 season. His VHSL records for most wins and championships seem almost untouchable, at least for the near future. But none of that seems to matter to him.

"There have been times I've encouraged him to retire," Lisa Smith says. "But he always tells me, 'I'm not ready.' He feels as long as he can make a difference in those kids lives, he needs to stay where he is."

In fact, one of Smith's biggest fears now is quitting too soon. He made that mistake eight years ago. He vows not to make it again.

"There were times I had nightmares where I had quit," he says. "I was saying, 'What have I done?' I wake up in a sweat. But I think I'll recognize when the time's right. When it comes to a time when I can't give the effort for the kids and the coaches, it'll be time to go on.

"One day, I might wake up and say 'I can't do it anymore' and just not show up. I'll be down in Southwest Virginia somewhere and they'll be looking for me for practice. Either that, or they'll be throwing dirt down on me. One or the other."