City Sports Report

Dean Smith: More Than A Coach

Dean Smith will be missed tremendously (photo via www.carolinaonmymind.org)

There are coaches and there are legends. Former North Carolina head coach Dean Smith was not only a coach, but he was a legend in the game. On February 7th, one of the best to ever coach in college basketball passed away at the age of 83. He may not be here with us physically today, but his memory will never be forgotten whether you are a North Carolina fan and his influence will always be seen on the game. And for that we should all be thankful for his contributions and his influence.

When Dean Smith took over North Carolina in 1961, there was still very much a segregated look to the North Carolina basketball team. But Smith took to change that when he first recruited Charlie Scott to his program. In 1967, Scott would become the first African-American to play basketball at the University of North Carolina. But this was only the beginning of what Dean Smith would do for the equal rights movement. Smith would also go on to advocate for equal treatment of African-Americans by local businesses. In that day and time, with the racial tension at an all-time high, it takes a pretty strong man to be able to stand up for equal rights in that time. Dean Smith, being a white man, did not have to do so, but he felt that it was the right thing to do. And because of that, he had an influence not only on the court, but off the court as well.

But along with his influence early in his coaching career on equal rights, Smith also preached about success on and off the court. From Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Kenny Smith to Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, Smith was able to get great talents to come to North Carolina and play basketball. And it was because of that he had great success on the court (879 career coaching wins in his 36 career coaching career at North Carolina), he was so revered as a great coach. But along with being a great coach, he was also serious about players coming to the university and getting their degrees. In this day and time, usually programs don’t have the same success on the court as they do in the classroom. But Dean Smith stood alone with the success he had. He had a graduation rate of 96.6% during his entire tenure at North Carolina. That in itself is unheard of and unprecedented. And it shows that he valued players for more than just what they could do on the court, but off the court as well. He cared for his players’ well-being and many can attest to that. In fact, many still called him a father figure and friend to the day he passed away.

But his legacy will not only live on through what he did on his own, but through the coaches he mentored along the way. Smith’s coaching tree is very extensive and spans from college basketball to the NBA. At one point and time, he had coaches like Larry Brown and Roy Williams sitting beside him as assistant coaches. Brown would take the North Carolina way to the NBA and to the college ranks. He has moved around a lot in his NBA coaching career, but he has been successful almost everywhere he has been. In fact, he has taken eight different teams to the playoffs during his NBA coaching career. And he also had some success when he was the head coach at the University of Kansas, leading the Jayhawks to a National title in 1988. Brown holds the unique distinction as the only coach to win a title as a college and NBA head coach (won a NBA title in 2004 as head coach of the Detroit Pistons). As far as Williams, he left North Carolina in 1988 to take the head coaching job at Kansas, succeeding Brown when he left to coach the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. He had consistent success with the Kansas program and brought in great talent while taking them to new heights. He would do great things for Kansas until in 2003, he returned to North Carolina as head coach. And since then, Williams has led North Carolina to two national titles (2005 and 2009). Smith’s tutelage of these two excellent coaches only further enhances what kind of impact he had.

Smith will definitely be missed. His fingerprints will forever be on the North Carolina program and college basketball. But not only will his fingerprints be on basketball, but they will be on life as well. Smith wanted the best for his players and his coaches. And he did best by them not only on the court, but off the court as well. Honestly, there will only be one Dean Smith and there may not be one to ever touch the man and coach he was.

Click here for the official press release from UNC Chapel Hill

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One Comment

  1. ASR

    February 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Well done, Dean Smith was a leader of men and used basketball as its medium. RIP

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