Dean Smith, Champion of College Basketball and of Racial Equality, Dies at 83

Feb 09, 2015 · 81 comments
Michele Morris (Longmeadow, MA)
In 1990, a friend of mine wrote to Dean Smith to ask whether he would write me a note of encouragement after I lost very dear friend in a car accident. I had never met Coach Smith and am not a UNC alumni, but my friend explained that I had rabidly rooted for the Tarheels for many years. Coach Smith thereafter wrote me a very warm personal note expressing condolences for my loss. It meant a great deal to me. I have seen in the accounts published since his death that his letter to me was not an uncommon act of kindness. Dean Smith was a very great coach. But he was an even greater man.
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
Cosmically, the college basketball game just got a lot more watchable. May Smith's detested 4-corners slowdown offense never come back. Ever.
John C (Smith mountain Lake, VA)
In the early 2000's , on a flight to JFK, I sat across the aisle from Coach Smith. I respected his privacy, only to ask coach how he was doing as we were preparing to get off the flight.

I took the chance entounter to write Coach Smith a letter about my Adminstrative Assistant (a long time die-hard Tar Heels fan and Coach Smith idolizer) who was in the hospital in terrible condition. In the letter, I mentioned our less than casual meeting and expessed a request about this individual, her condition, and her situation at UNC Hospital. Asking for him to send her a note, providing her name and specific hospital information.

Instead of sending anything to the hospital, Coach Smith sent me a package with an autographed photo with a wonderful personal note to her, and a separate profound personal note to me, asking me to hand deliver it to her, insisting that my gesture must not be unnoticed.

He followed that up with personal visits to see her every time he made his visits to the hospital (which were frequent). The impact was extraordinary on all of us, and a display on the Man that he was. For the patient, it fulfilled a dream of meeting Coach and as she called it "an inspiration to fight on". Eventually she succumbed to her illness, but the compassion Coach Smith provided her, gave her and her family such joy and comfort to her and her family during such trying times. Coach Smith also taught me a lesson as a young executive what class and leadership really are.
SusanH. (Philadelphia, PA)
I was an undergraduate from '79 to '83, so was lucky enough to be there for the national championship. I remember during one game against Virginia when Ralph Sampson was shooting a free throw, the student section was going nuts, waving arms and yelling. Coach walked out on the court and simply pointed at us to be quiet so Sampson could shoot without distraction.

Dean Smith was a gentleman who embraced human rights for all, and he personified values that are lacking in some corners today. He will be sorely missed.
Gwyn Ingle (Gibsonville, North Carolina)
There is one example of Coach Smith's sportsmanship that I observed and appreciated when I was a student at UNC in the late '60's and early '70's that I have not seen published in your readers' comments so far, and I want to share it now. At home games when a UNC opponent was on the foul line preparing to shoot a free throw, if vocal Carolina fans started waving their arms and pom-poms and yelling at the shooter in an attempt to distract him from making his shot, Coach Smith would signal the crowd to cease and desist from this unsportsmanlike display. If the crowd failed to stop, he would commandeer the game announcer's mike and in no uncertain terms instruct the rowdy young fans that this was not acceptable behavior. This invariably silenced the crowd. I was always impressed with his effort to allow opponents to play this part of the game without undue pressure from rabid home fans. It also taught us an important lesson in good sportsmanship. He was truly a teacher.

I think the last time I observed this kind of leadership from a coach was the last time I saw a Coach Smith-coached game.
Long Time Fan (Atlanta)
Pretty remarkable when the consensus across the board from players, coaches, opponents all have positive memories of Dean Smith. It sounds like he was a great teacher and leader. And a great man.
HapinOregon (Southwest corner of Oregon)
Were it not for Coach Dean Smith's innovation and usage of the "four corners offense", I would consider him a peer of Coach John Wooden...
David Forster (Pound Ridge, NY)
I graduated from UNC in '66 when Dean Smith was just getting started and so his accomplishments in later years were something of a surprise to me. I, too, was never a fan of his four corners offense which, if I'm not mistaken, he employed less and less as the talent on his rosters improved. Besides his championships, what stands out in my mind was an interview that he gave many years after retirement when he said the record he was most proud of was the fact that he graduated 97% of his players. How lucky they were to have played for him!
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
And the crazy part was how often it didn't really help the sky-blue V-necked five. But, man, he loved to plug it in.
melech18 (Cedar Rapids)
The “sham” courses at UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies began during Smiths tenure. According to published reports that have never been refuted, UNC men's basketball players were responsible for 54 enrollments in sham classes under Coach Smith. Thanks to the cover-up of this scandal by UNC, the lack of action by the NCAA and the blind-eye that sports “journalists” have turned to this matter, we have no idea about what Smith knew and what his level of involvement was. But before we nominate him for Sainthood, it might be a good idea to remove this apparent bit of tarnish from his halo.
Cheryl Ann Hurt (Alachua, Florida)
I would challenge your information about segregation in Kansas in this piece. The country had pockets of indefensible lack of acceptance and opportunity for blacks and Kansas no doubt also, but statewide segregation was not the rule. My father, Oliver Hobbs, was band director in Lawrence, Kansas from 1936 until 1946 and in photographs of his bands and choral groups, black and white stand together. He spoke frequently of his fine musicians there. Photographs to verify can be found in the Oliver Hobbs Collection in the State of Florida Archives. An aside, my mother-in-law, a Kansas gal of no-nonsense self-sufficiency, do-it-right the first time and "Oh piffle!" when it doesn't go well, was D. Smith's babysitter when he was a little guy in Emporia.
Jerry S (Greenville, SC)
What a wonderful story. It really inspires me to do a better job but more importantly be a better person.
Green (Vancouver, BC)
As a kid from Shanghai moving to a Midwest college town, I was enamoured by two things, playing sports and watching sports. The serene beauty of MLB, the sheer power in grace that was Joe Montana. But lo and behold, it was ostensibly the core joy of NCAA March Madness that left a long legacy. The oddly compatible Carolina Blue colors matched the oak floors of Cameron and Smith Center. That is the captivating thing about sports, it is the small things, the ivy at Wrigley, the Green Monster at Fenway, the weird corner empty seats at Candlestick are certainly memorable. Carolina had always been a great team, as kids, we don't even think about the legacy of these images in our adult life.... Life went on... school, marriage, career. Then in mid-career, a few promptings and nudges, and there I was at Chapel Hill, with my kids, where I decided to attend more schooling. My kids wearing Carolina Blue, with pompoms, our family was now suddenly all fans.... Dean Smith is really a hero, he is Carolina. He lived the Carolina way. He taught players to be good people, to live beyond the racial divide. To be a winner on the court is to be a winner in life, thank you!
JerseyJon (Love Canal, NJ)
On an editorial note - really surprised and actually disappointed in NYT 'Breaking News' decision NOT to post Coach Smith's Death on Sat when it was announced. Not that he was a young man or that the timing of his death was a shock. But he was a giant in his profession, which is a high visibility and widely followed part of American culture.
vincentgaglione (NYC)
After reading this obituary I am awed by a man who indeed was a Christian! His lessons in living are worth emulating!
richopp (FL)
I was a Carolina graduate teaching at a local Jr. High and had his son on my BB team. We went to his office and asked if a couple of UNC players could visit the school and talk to our team about sportsmanship and give a few pointers. Coach Smith was as gracious as he could be, sent over a couple of players—I think George Karl and Bob McAdoo—and it was really a treat for our team.
Everyone loved Coach for all the reasons stated in these posts, and even though I was a young teacher/coach at the time, I was a huge fan and was very nervous standing in his office with his son asking for this favor. I also had one of his daughters in class; it was evident that she was from a very fine family who taught respect and manners to their children.
We will all miss Coach Smith and I, for one, hope that coaches now and in the future will read his books, look at his life, and try to bring the game full circle from the mess it has become today to what it was during Coach Smith's time.
Finally, for those who trash the "4-Corners" offense, it was legal and brilliant, copied by many others until the shot clock was implemented. Playing by the rules does not mean everyone will be happy, but he won games with this approach, so it worked. Sorry if YOUR team lost, but most did when playing against a Dean Smith team. The noise in the old Carmichael Auditorium was pretty helpful, too, and I remember it fondly.

RIP, Coach Smith. We all remember your examples of fairness, honesty, and respect for all.
Bill Woodson (Ct.)
Dean Smith, John Wooden- wonderful examples of what coaching is all about.
I have Wooden's " Pyramid of Success" poster- building blocks related to forming ones self-confidence and positive human traits.
Kim F (Arizona)
I grew up on the outskirts of Chapel Hill, where UNC is located, and our family lived and breathed Tarheel basketball. In 1983, I went to the west coast for college. It was an enormous cultural shock, and I missed home terribly. Mid-way through my freshman year, I learned that the UNC team was going to play in a Christmas Classic at my university. I managed to get my entire dorm to wear Carolina Blue and most of us got tickets to the game. Afterwards I wrote to Coach Smith, telling him how seeing the Carolina team made my homesickness a little better. To my amazement, I received a personal reply -- not a canned form letter -- but one that responded directly to what I had written.

He was an amazing human being with a common touch, who remained genuine despite his celebrity and never forgot who his fans were. I will never forget the kindness he showed so many years ago to an 18-year-old girl, and I truly grieve his loss today.
Matthew Robertson (Darien, CT)
Dean Smith was a good person and a mentor to a lot of great players. But, his biggest legacy to college basketball will be remembered as the 30 second clock. The Four Courners "offense" was nothing more than an attempt to work around the rules of the day, to stall the game out by denying the opponent possession. Wooden never needed that.
Steven (NYC)
Work around, or work with? If it's within the rules, it's fine. Sour grapes from a UCLA fan?
Jeff M (Chapel Hill, NC)
Not today man. Wooden was a great coach but isn't it possible he had more talent at times? Dean Smith was a great coach who gave his players a chance to win even when they were outgunned.
zeuxis (Providence, RI)
Actually, the intent of the four corners was to isolate players (usually the superior players that UNC recruited) in one-on-one matchups. In that sense it is the forefather of all the isolation matchup offenses you see in the NBA today.

Back then, teams could stay in a zone defense unless they were behind, in which case they were required to play at least token pressure on the ball (usually by switching to a man-to-man defense. By spreading the court when we had the lead, Dean ensured that teams had to try to play matchup against UNC's superior players. It also ensured a high-percentage shot opportunity, which was the cornerstone of Smith's offensive philosophy prior to the institution of the 3-pointer (which he advocated, along with the shot clock, by the way.)
Glenn (Cali Colombia)
I grew up an NC State fan, but to me he was the greatest coach of all times. What I loved about him most is that when they won he credited his players and when they lost he took the blame himself. There's not a coach out there today with the same sentiment, including the current coach at North Carolina. He was the greatest recruiter as well. He tried to convince the parents of the recruit that the player should come to Carolina. Because if a player listened to his parents he was likely to be kinda player that will listen to the coach. His death is another marker of the end of an era. College basketball as we knew it is dead. Dean Smith rest in peace.
Cary Appenzeller (Brooklyn, New York)
the most important quality of Coach Smith was his moral core.

Farewell, Dean Smith.
Easy Going Mom (Chapel Hill, NC)
I only met Dean Smith once, and that was long ago when I was an undergraduate at UNC, working nights and weekends in a local (at that time, the only) Mexican restaurant. I was announcing a to-go order for "Smith" when two gentlemen approached with alacrity to claim the order. One was the purchaser of that particular order of tacos, and the other was none other than Dean Smith. When Coach Smith realized his mistake, he seemed truly embarrassed by his presumption, apologizing both to me and to the other Smith. I'll never forget the warmth of his smile, and the twinkle in his eye as he quietly retreated to patiently await his order. It was the briefest of encounters, but the memory of that great and humble man will stay with me always.

And oh what joy it was to be a UNC undergraduate in 1982! Thanks to you, Coach Smith.
SusanH. (Philadelphia, PA)
You must have worked a Papagyos!
Bo (Washington, DC)
Greatly admired Coach Smith for his stance against segregation in the segregated Atlantic Coast Conference.

Great coach, but a even greater human being.
Cliff (North Carolina)
Grew up on Dean Smith and Carolina basketball and was a student at UNC in 1982 for the championship. As a youngster I remember Coach Smith saying "always be at least five minutes early for an appointment" and it stuck with me among other practical advice that he gave. He had a quiet confidence that came through to his team. In 1974, down 8 points to an underdog Duke team with 17 seconds left, Bobby Jones was on the foul line. Bobby was not a great foul shooter and Coach Smith said "after Bobby hits these two free throws, then we are going to. . ." Bobby hit the free throws and UNC tied the game in regulation and won in overtime. My other favorite Coach Smith post-game quote he often used was "that game would have been fun to watch if you didn't care who won." Yeah, we are going to miss him.
Anthony Zak (Brecksville Ohio)
Dean Smith what a legendary coach, he developed some great players in his years of coaching and the best to ever play the game - Michael Jordan.

This is a good article on

Anthony Zak Brecksville Ohio
ejzim (21620)
One of the reasons I don't watch college basketball anymore is that there are no longer such leaders as Dean Smith in the game. He was a great coach and an even greater human being. Rest in peace.
Stevs (Fort Myers Florida)
There are plenty of coaches of his ilk, three I can think of in just the ACC.
GJ (Baltimore)
Classy, classy, classy. Rest in peace.
Robert Stewart (Chantilly, Virginia)
Krzyzewski of Duke: “I can’t think of a time I’ve ever heard him blame or degrade one of his own players, and in return his kids are fiercely loyal to him."

Do not know of any greater tribute that could be paid to a coach.

What a legacy!
Rob (NYC)
I was a graduate student at UNC, 1981-1986. When they were building the "Deandome", there was a bit of a hubbub about fund raising, with some new big donors said be getting dibs on the best seats for season tickets, at the expense of some people who had for many years helped the players scholastically, etc. When asked about the fund raising effort, Dean Smith said, "If people want to donate to UNC, I think they should give to the library". Another lesson in how to behave from a class act.
Tim C (San Diego, CA)
I'm glad they put in the 35 second shot clock to put an end to the four corner, but other than that, there was nothing boring about Dean Smith. He came along and helped bring the game into the modern era. Michael Jordan was destined to become a great player no matter what, but Dean taught him team play and defense, a terrific foundation for his future stardom. We will miss you Dean!
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
The joke question went around for decades:
''Who was the last man to hold Michael Jordan under (so many) points? Coach Dean Smith''

I never saw the man have a bad day. As far as the too-easy no-show-up classes go, those things are going to happen and always will. And I never heard of him having cash sent to people for any reason.
Nick Lee (Puako)
Not mentioned was the fact that Coach Smith was a big Title IX supporter. If memory serves, when he was finally cornered into endorsing Nike, he donated the "sneaker money" to the UNC Athletic Department, having the funds evenly divided between men's and women's programs. Coaches generally pocketed this cash.
Anthony Zak (Brecksville ohio)
Dean smith was a legend he has developed so many great players and they all respect him. For example Michael Jordan was not super star in college because he worked within the system. To this day Michael Jordan started that Dean Smith made him the player he is today.

Anthony Zak Brecksville, Ohio
Andre (New York)
Not only a great winner... He carried himself as a gentleman.
Ralph Protsik (San Francisco)
Those who were there, and those like myself who listened to the game on radio, will never forget the ACC Tournament game against Duke in 1966 when Smith, knowing he was outmanned by the likes of Jack Marin and Bob Verga, used his Four Corner Offense from tipoff to late in the 4th period when Duke finally pulled ahead and ultimately won 21-20. That game more than any other signalled the introduction of the shot clock.
Phil Steele (Seville, Spain)
Was the Duke coach Vic Bubas? I too listened to that game on radio...a transistor radio, in fact, in the decades before boom busters and the like...and it was one of the most exciting games ever for this Carolina fan, precisely because the Tar Heels stayed close against a vastly superior team.
Ralph Protsik (San Francisco)
It was indeed Bubas. That was the year of Texas Western. I'm wrong about one thing, however: it wasn't until the early 80s (after other ridiculously low-scoring games) that the shot clock was tried out.
Douglas Hill (Norman, Oklahoma)
Rest in peace coach. Glad this story highlights the link between Smith, the University of Kansas and civil rights for black players.
David McGee (Virginia)
We lost more than just a basketball coach with Dean Smith's passing. We lost a good man. He wasn't perfect, but he did his best to make those around him better people. You can't ask for more than that.
A life well lived. R.I.P.
Cleo (New Jersey)
Dean Smith was the leader of a powerhouse college team. A program that was apparently scandal free. Over the last year or more, UNC has been involved in a serious athletic scandal with, among other things, fake classes. Where did it all go wrong?
ChapelThrill23 (Chapel Hill, NC)
More importantly than all of his success on court he made Chapel Hill a better place. Even as an assistant coach in his 20s he broke barriers when he'd take African Americans to local segregated restaurants and his mostly white church. He then later help integrate basketball in the south when he became head coach. He also spoke out on issues related to social justice. Most great coaches don't really contribute anything to the world beyond wins and losses in games which ultimately really don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Dean was different.
OldTrojan (Florida)
I was with Coach Smith on the UNC campus on a Saturday morning. Across the street two young women saw him. One ran across the street and asked Smith if she could take his picture. He said certainly, and then suggested that her friend come over and take a picture of the two of them. That young woman was as happy as anyone I've ever seen.
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
In the spring, the Chapel Hill campus was truly beautiful, like a hilly Augusta National GC.
RDS (Florida)
Class act, class program, class period. Dean Smith was who we should all try to be.
jr (upstate)
Dean Smith will be mourned as much as some great governors, Marines, preachers, firemen, CEOs, cops. He will be truly missed more than every one of those.

Because the world misses most its great teachers.

Peace forever, Mr. Smith.
ejzim (21620)
jr--Very well said!
Frisco Chris (San Francisco, CA)
As a Duke studen in the late 80's, there was no better time at Cameron Indoor stadium than when Dean Smith and UNC came to play. Win or lose, it was an amazing experience to see Coach K and Dean Smith and their great teams go head to head in that small arena. I doubt any sporting event I ever attend will compare.
JerseyJon (Love Canal, NJ)
A Dukie with similar experience, a bit earlier when K was new kid on the block. Clearly Dean Was 'The Dean' and He and K waged fierce battles that epitmozed the best aspects of rivalry - respect, discipline, talent, and knowing your opponent was giving every ounce of effort and running a clean program.
Dean Smith's legacy is the accelerated integration of college basketball in a state that accepted it slowly, national prominence for UNC, and the establshment of the ACC as best brand of college basketball.

RIP Coach Smith. Good news is that there is probably no time clock up there so you can bring back the Four Corners...
loulor (Arlington, VA)
As great a coach as he was, Dean Smith should first and foremost be remembered and honored as a quiet civil rights force whose actions set him apart from most -- if not all -- of his coaching contemporaries of the 1960s.

He was a giant who won't be forgotten.
Steve Austin (Hopkinsville KY)
This won't be recalled in the tilted sports media any more, but Adolph Rupp was shocked and disappointed when he first saw how badly black Lexingtonians lived on his first trip to Kentucky with his taking that job.
Jake (Raleigh NC)
there's a reason generations of North Carolinians revered Coach Smith: because he was a man of absolute integrity and grace. In 35 years of living in Chapel Hill, having had attended the University for 6 years and two degrees, and knowing many people behind the scenes at the University who would have been privy to his private persona, I have literally never heard a bad word spoken about him. He was humble and self-effacing while being a competitor at the highest level. He was truly a teacher to his students, his team members, who he treated all equally, like family.

He had the courage to integrate ACC basketball in the 60s, which may ge he lasting legacy. Fate dealt him some curveballs; he could have easily won 4 or 5 National Championships, but it wasn't about records or ultimately success on the court that mattered to him. he was most proud of molding young men into successful adults.

In this day of sports hero worship and over the top self promotion, Dean Smith should be held up as an example of the right things to emulate and reward. North Carolina has lost one of its greatest sons. we'll miss you, Coach. we really will.
Mike DeSisti (Washington, DC)
As the Sports Editor of the UNC student newspaper during Michael Jordan's sophomore and junior seasons, I got to know Coach Smith better than most, traveling with the team to away games and talking with him regularly throughout the year. Some 10 years later, posted to Sri Lanka as a Peace Corps volunteer, I wrote him a letter asking for a favor on behalf of a young Tar Heel fan who had broken his collarbone in a high school rugby game. A few weeks later -- faster than replies to my aerogrammes typically came from family back home -- I had a Dean Smith-autographed Carolina basketball yearbook to deliver to the recovering young athlete, the son of the Peace Corps nurse. "Get well soon, Jesse. Dean Smith." Coach Smith was a unique human being whose humility and dignity made a lasting impression on all those who had the privilege of crossing his path. May he rest in peace.
Steve Warren (Richmond, VA)
I did not attend UNC, but my father did. Therefore, I was indoctrinated early on as per rooting for the squad in the baby blue uniforms. I was fortunate also in having had the opportunity to watch the last game in Carmichael Auditorium, the arena the Heels played in before they moved over to the Dean Smith Center in 1986. What happened after this game illustrated best what Coach Smith was about. UNC played NC State that day. Jim Valvano was the latter's coach. As the teams left the court after the game, Valvano directed Smith to throw him a basketball lying nearby. The State coach subsequently shot a lay-up at one basket. Later, Valvano commented that he had made the "last shot" in Carmichael. Dean, when asked about this, responded in this manner: But I got the last assist. Right there, in one line, the essence of the man and coach... One more thing, Carolina won that day. My brother, who was born in Chapel Hill while my dad was a student at UNC, called me this morning to see if I had heard the news, and we did all that we could to avoid blubbering like a couple of babies. Thanks Coach Smith for that wonderful distraction known as Carolina Basketball, and for all of the ways, and not just via your coaching prowess, that you made the world a better place. If you ever heard him interviewed, you could tell that Dean E. Smith was perturbed by the fact that a silly game garnered so much attention. Before long, he'd be talking about, maybe, starving kids in Africa.
David Bee (Brooklyn)
Thanks for the good anecdote. Incidentally, let's not forget UNC under Coach Smith and NCState under Coach Valvano won successive NCAA National Championships in 1982 and 1983. (Although I never had the opportunity to see Coach Smith coach a game in person, I did see Coach V several times in his days at Iona College.)

In a nutshell, they were a pair of class acts.
ejzim (21620)
Valvano, Coach K, and Dean Smith. Wow! I miss watching those games, those athletes, and the greatest coaches ever. Wonderful memories!
My father, Donnie Walsh, played for Coach Smith in the 60s. Dean Smith was one of the all-time greats. Instrumental in my decision to attend and graduate from UNC. He is forever part of my family's story.
5w30 (Brooklyn)
We Knicks fans miss your dad. Donnie Walsh is doing quite well in Indianapolis.
Julianna (Masssachusetts)
The following may be meaningful or illuminating. Mr Smith belonged to the Olin T Baptist Curch in Chapel Hill, where a truly inspired pastor (Robert Seymour) inspired a progressive message of love and justice, by any standard, not just for a 'Baptist' church in the South. Close to the church and the Seymours, I have to imagine that these relationships strengthened Mr. Smith in his dedication to truth, justice and honesty, on and off the court.
Al (Allentown, PA)
Olin T Binkley Memorial Baptist Church.
Concerned Reader (Boston)
Even though Kansas and UNC are strong rivals in basketball, the Kansas-UNC connection runs deep and there is tremendous respect in Kansas for the UNC program.

The article mentions Dean was taught by Phog Allen at Kansas' Phog Allen. and briefly mentions Roy Williams and Larry Brown. Larry Brown, who was taught by Dean at UNC, rebuilt the Kansas team to national prominence after years of mediocrity, and won a national championship in 1988. After Larry left, Roy Williams followed and kept Kansas in contention for several national championship titles, but never won the final game. While it's unfortunate we lost Roy to UNC, UNC gained a worthy follower to Dean Smith.

Dean, you will be missed.
David Colwell (North CArolina)
I was fortunate to attend Carolina during Coach Smith's tenure. I have one lasting memory I'd like to share here: It was either 1976 or 1977. We still played our home games in Carmichael Auditorium. We had seen Carolina go into the four-corners with a lead...and lose. It was "devastating." The next afternoon I was with two friends on campus. We had gone into the YMCA building for a snack and Coach Smith was in line in back of us. He was dressed to go to practice. It was awkward for us because we had lost the night before. One of us said to him something like, "Tough game, Coach." He smiled, agreed, looked at his watch (it was nearly 4:00 pm), and we asked him if he wanted to get in line ahead of us so he could get to practice at Carmichael. He politely refused. After we had paid and gone outside, Coach Smith exited, we waved goodbye to him, and he stopped to come over to talk to us. For the next 30 minutes he asked us about school: Our major(s), our classes, our parents, and our future plans. Not one thing about basketball. It was one of the highlights of my life. I shed a tear this morning when I heard of his passing. RIP, Coach Smith.
Paul (White Plains)
A good man who did not caught up in the glamour and fame of his own success. We need more college coaches like him today.
Craig (New York, NY)
I was a University of Maryland fan at the height of Dean Smith's career. We always feared games against UNC,itself a tacit compliment to him. More importantly, I never knew of his work off the court on civil rights issues at a time when it took real courage to take stands as he did when he lived in the South. It seems lost on the present generation that true leadership is by example and not by self-promotion. In fact, it adds to the power of the example when one does not publicize their efforts as it makes clear there is no gain sought by doing so. Finally, I lament that the era of a student-athlete is likely gone forever and that there likely will not be another Dean Smith in Division I NCAA sports like basketball where money, not education, seem to be the top priority. Hats off to Dean Smith and the countless lives he has influenced and changed.
Scott Everson, RN (Madrid)
Not perhaps, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. Coach Smith always used to say that the one statistic people never mention is that Michael never lost an NBA championship. LeBron has lost several.
Cleo (New Jersey)
In terms of championships, Bill Russel is the greatest basketball player. No one comes close. In terms of dominance on the court, it was Wilt Chamberlain. Jordan is a very good third.
Scott Everson, RN (Madrid)
Cleo, this article is about Coach Smith, not about what you and I think. Coach Smith said Michael was the greatest player to ever play the game. I'd add Bill Russell said the same thing.
abba1a (michigan)
Class person. He will be missed.
Charles Houseworth (Raleigh, NC)
As a UNC-CH '72 alum, I have dreaded this day for some time. We all knew that Coach Smith was failing. The worst part was that his mind and memory were failing him in his later years, when he should have been able to most enjoy and reflect back on all that he accomplished as a basketball coach and a man. In an age of hyperbole, he truly was a very great man. When his memorial service is held in Chapel Hill sometime during the next few days, there will not be sufficient room for all who want to be there, even if it is to be in the 60000 seat football stadium. All of his former players and coaches as well as so many of his rivals, a virtual Who's Who of college and pro basketball, will come back to pay their respects, and that will be the best tribute of all. God bless you, Dean Smith.
PaulB (Cincinnati, Ohio)
He would probably object to all the fuss being made over him.
I am humbled to have attended UNC during the time Coach Smith was there, and lucky to have been a basketball fan. You will be missed, Coach.
Barack (Colorado)
As I was a young person during the 80s, I certainly remember that UNC-Georgetown final...

The ace Michael Jordan demonstrating his innate poise that had been further cultivated by Smith... pulling up to take that final shot over an outmatched Brian Williams, who had started out the game simply reporting on it, but after being drafted by the Hoyas at the half, nearly led his team to heroic victory.

Dean Smith was all class. Many lessons regarding professionalism and dedication may be taken from his long career. I hope all ACC schools - in particular his rivals within the state of North Carolina - will take some time to honor this man and reflect on how he perpetually earned the respect of those around him.
John (NYC)
One of the greatest. Smith had a truly unique ability to combine mentoring, caring, while creating a pedagogical paradigm that was the blueprint for successful team basketball. A good man, good coach, good teacher. Very sad to hear of his passing, but his efforts made his profession, and those he was in contact with, better... and that will live on.
Old blue (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Great man. Fiercely competitive and intelligent, but also astonishingly compassionate and sensitive. Most successful coaches operate on fear and intimidation. Coach Smith relied on love and discipline. In order for that to work, that love has to be real, and it was. He had an enormous influence on two generations of players, coaches and fans --- not just as a coach, but as a moral leader for the state and nation.
PaulB (Cincinnati, Ohio)
As a UNC alum and lifelong Tar Heel basketball fan, Dean Smith represented all that was good and honest about collegiate athletics. But his contributions off the court are what always stand out in my mind, from helping to integrate a segregated sport, to standing up against discrimination and the death penalty, among many other causes.

He was a humble, self-effacing man who kept true to essential beliefs in the dignity of everyone. Hark the Sound of Tar Heel voices, as they remember a truly exceptional human being.
Matthew Carnicelli (Brooklyn, New York)
It was always hard to dislike Smith's North Carolina teams, even when you were rooting against them for one reason or another.

Any coach who managed to win as often as he did, while still graduating such a high percentage of his players, was obviously doing several things right.

He will be missed.
See also