Dean Smith

I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, arriving in 1974 after finishing high school in Athens, Greece. My dorm-mate was a friend from Greece, Ed Leight, who'd moved back to the States a few years earlier. After we'd unpacked our stuff, Ed told me, "Okay, you're going to have to learn how to do two things here: drink beer and watch Carolina basketball."  I learned other stuff at Chapel Hill, but these were indeed two very important skills. Forty-one years later, Ed's advice remains valid.

Lucky for me, I was a freshman the same year Phil Ford arrived at Carolina. A dazzling point guard and scorer, Ford was the missing ingredient Carolina needed to thwart NC State's temporary dominance in the ACC thanks to the play of its superstar David Thompson. I soon learned to fume at State's coach Stormin' Norman Sloan. I fell in awe of Walter Davis and the rest of the Carolina players. I learned of the legendary game from the previous year in which Carolina came back against despised Duke from 8 points down in just 17 seconds. And I began my infatuation with Coach Dean Smith.

Coach Smith seemed to inhabit a different level of reverence in Chapel Hill. He wasn't just a great coach. He was nearly a religious figure to the Carolina faithful. He was to be trusted at all costs. During a tight game, whatever we thought we saw on the court, if we didn't understand it or agree with it, we assumed things were going to be okay, because surely Dean knew exactly what was going on, and furthermore, we felt sure he knew what was going to happen several plays into the future. Every substitution he made, every defense he called, every out of bounds play…seemed like the work of a divine craftsman. We believed in Dean Smith, and I mean, we BELIEVED in him.

We believed in him like he was a guy who'd risen just slightly above the human fray, who'd seen the light, heard the word, discovered what moved the hearts and minds of humans, and applied all of that divine knowledge to this thing called Carolina Basketball. In that way he sanctified the game for us. When Carolina won, it was with a sense of rightness and justice, because it validated Dean Smith's way of doing things: sharing the ball, getting the best shot, playing for the team, thanking the assist giver, standing up and applauding on the bench whenever a teammate was taken out of a game, taking a charge, hustling for a loose ball, diving out of bounds to save a possession, never giving up, playing hard until the last second, and on and on.

When Carolina won the national championship in 1982 it was awesome to have seen James Worthy battle Patrick Ewing, "Mike" Jordan hit the game winner and Fred Brown freakishly pass to Worthy and so on. But as we spilled onto Franklin Street for an all night celebration, a huge portion of our delirious joy was linked to our love of Dean Smith. It meant that no one could tag him with the ridiculous criticism that he "couldn't win the big one" after his six previous trips to the Final Four. (Any fan knows how many "big ones" you have to win to even reach one Final Four.) Sure, of course, yes, it helped to have James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan all on one team. We absolutely needed every bit of their talent. But those future NBA stars, when at Carolina, played like all the other Tarheels before them. The championship confirmed that the best team in the land could play the way Dean Smith wanted every Carolina team to play: unselfishly.

Carolina's current coach, Roy Williams, talks about Dean Smith in this video. Carolina fans can appreciate how hard he's working to keep it together the more he talks about Coach Smith. R.I.P.

Roy Williams on Dean Smith

3 comments

  • John Stavropoulos

    John Stavropoulos Denver,Colorado

    Saw your name on fb friend of Larry Leo, and Betsy Neill. Found the name intriguing, so I read the history of "The Orchestra", and learned the intriguing name was one Rick Miller. I too was a Dean Smith fan, and oddly enough went to Marquette, (Al McGuire),74-78 and attended Marquette-UNC, national championship.Rick if in Denver Come to Yanni's, it's a Greek Restaurant I've had for 25 years. Would love to catch up. What I've recently read, you have had quite the journey. Good Luck in your endeavors. Best, John

    Saw your name on fb friend of Larry Leo, and Betsy Neill. Found the name intriguing, so I read the history of "The Orchestra", and learned the intriguing name was one Rick Miller. I too was a Dean Smith fan, and oddly enough went to Marquette, (Al McGuire),74-78 and attended Marquette-UNC, national championship.Rick if in Denver Come to Yanni's, it's a Greek Restaurant I've had for 25 years. Would love to catch up. What I've recently read, you have had quite the journey. Good Luck in your endeavors.
    Best,
    John

  • Parthenon Huxley

    Parthenon Huxley

    Hey John: Wow. Nice to hear from you. I'll definitely look up Yanni's if I get back to Denver. Can't believe you were at the Marquette game. What a bitter pill that was. The only consolation was we all liked Al, and what a way to go out.

    Hey John:
    Wow. Nice to hear from you. I'll definitely look up Yanni's if I get back to Denver. Can't believe you were at the Marquette game. What a bitter pill that was. The only consolation was we all liked Al, and what a way to go out.

  • Annabelle Sawyer

    Annabelle Sawyer

    People like to enjoy pleasant season of Spring. They are enjoying snow at some places in Spring. People enjoy spring with [URL=https://www.myassignmentwriting.com.au/]professional lab report[/URL] and they are thankful to all for good company. They make their time memorable and capture some moments.

    People like to enjoy pleasant season of Spring. They are enjoying snow at some places in Spring. People enjoy spring with professional lab report and they are thankful to all for good company. They make their time memorable and capture some moments.

Add comment