Today is a sad day for Carolina Fans. I awoke to the news that Dean Smith, thirty-six season coach of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had died. Dean Smith was an icon in college basketball. He was the "gold standard" when it comes to leadership in sports. Smith coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, going 879-254 and retiring as the winningest coach in college basketball history.
My family rooted for the opposing NC State Wolfpack, but for some reason my loyalty was drawn to the Heels. I have always been a UNC Carolina Fan, and most of that was due to Dean Smith. I was thrilled when I met my husband and learned he was a graduate of UNC. Finally, I had someone who would share my love of Carolina Basketball.
I remember watching Dean Smith as a child and thinking he possessed magical powers. I later learned his magical powers consisted of motivating his players through respect. His players loved and respected him. The mutual admiration between the two was ever evident on the court and off. In the world of sports where winning is so revered, Dean Smith was more concerned about growing men. He made players who left early for the NBA, promise to return to finish their educations. His players never heard him swear which speaks of the character he exhibited to his players.
"If we put more emphasis on rewarding coaches and players for playing well, rather than winning we would be better off."
Dean Smith never wanted attention. "It was all about the players, not himself." said Jerry Stackhouse when interviewed this morning. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Dean Smith.
"He set the standard for loyalty and concern for every one of his players, not just the games won or lost."
- Roy Williams
"I always mean what I say, but I don't always say what I'm thinking." -Dean Smith
Wouldn't life be better if we followed that quote? Dean Smith taught his players the game of basketball, but more than sports, he taught them the game of life. I venture a guess that he taught many of us how to be better people. He was a man with class.
He was a legend in his own time.
Dean Smith is one of the greatest coach of all times.
His legacy will live on forever!