Remembering Dean Smith

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Dean Smith pictured on the cover of the program for the 1966-1967 season. From the Records of the Office of Athletic Communications (#40308), University Archives.

Few people in UNC’s history are as iconic and universally-beloved as basketball coach Dean Smith, who passed away this Saturday at age 83.

Smith arrived at UNC in 1958 as an assistant basketball coach under Frank McGuire. Three years later, he took on the role of head coach during a difficult time for the team. After a massive 1961 gambling conspiracy in which players from 22 schools threw the outcome of games, the team faced sanctions by the NCAA and the resignation of Coach McGuire.

Despite assuming leadership in such a challenging time, Smith soon brought the Tar Heels to the top, winning three consecutive ACC titles in 1967, 1968, and 1969. In his 36-season career, the team made eleven appearances in the Final Four and won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993). Smith was credited with the invention of several basketball innovations, including the four corners offense, and retired with 879 career wins, a record which went unbroken for a decade. During his tenure at UNC, he coached an array of basketball legends including Phil Ford, Billy Cunningham, Charlie Scott, Bob McAdoo, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter, just to name a few.

However, it was not Smith’s skill as a coach¬†alone that made him an icon. Committed to racial integration, he used his influence to promote the integration of local businesses and was the first coach in the ACC to recruit black players. He emphasized the importance of

Smith speaking to players. From the 1973 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection.
Smith speaking to players. From the 1973 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection.

personal integrity and promoted academic excellence for his players, opposing freshman eligibility for high-profile sports. Perhaps most of all, Smith is remembered for his life-long devotion to his players, remaining a mentor and friend to many of them long after they left Carolina.

2 thoughts on “Remembering Dean Smith”

  1. I would like to know where I could buy or get a CD of the Memorial of Dean Smith that was held on t.v. on Sunday. I have a uncle that is in his 80’s and has loved and followed Mr. Smith . After watching it with him on Sunday…. he was so very touched. He has asked me if I could get him a copy of that special service. I told him that I would try. Please, Please can you advise me. Thank you, Sandra Thomas

    1. Hi, Sandra. Thank you for your question. We do not have a recording of the televised memorial service last month–I would recommend contacting WRAL, which broadcast the service.

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