Dean Smith Papers Now Available for Research in Wilson Library

Older white male in Carolina Blue track suit, sitting down, holding a basketball in the UNC arena.
Publicity photo for Smith’s biography, A Coach’s Life, first published in 1999. [Folder 129, Biography: Photographs of Dean Smith]
We are thrilled to announce that the personal papers of Dean Smith are now available for research in Wilson Library. Donated by Coach Smith’s family earlier this year, the papers include materials from his youth in Kansas, scrapbooks kept by his parents for many years, and files kept by Smith in his retirement. The collection offers the opportunity to learn more about Smith’s life and interests, his work after he left coaching, and the lasting impact he has had on his players, fellow coaches, and Carolina fans everywhere.

The papers contain materials going as far back as 1946, with a report Smith wrote on his hometown of Emporia, Kansas. (He got an A.) There is a program from the NCAA champion 1952 Kansas men’s basketball team, of which Smith was a member, along with copies of his yearbooks from the University of Kansas.

For those interested in learning more about Smith’s career at UNC, there is a wealth of information available in scrapbooks that were maintained by his parents over several decades. These include newspaper clippings and programs and are a great way to follow the progress of some of Smith’s legendary Tar Heel basketball teams.

The largest part of the collection is the files from Smith’s retirement office (as he often said to his correspondents, after retirement he still went to the office every morning, but he left whenever he felt like it). The retirement files include lots of correspondence with friends and coaches. Smith faced a seemingly endless number of invitations to speak and to accept awards. He accepted some, participating in ESPN’s 25th anniversary celebration and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award. Perhaps of more personal importance, he traveled Kansas in 2001 to accept the Kansan of the Year award and returned again in 2007 for the 55th anniversary of the 1952 basketball team. His papers show that he kept up with many longtime friends and family members in Kansas.

Smith’s papers reflect his interest in faith and social issues, including a number of articles he was reading and discussing. There are a few files on political fundraising he participated in and a very interesting folder on discussions he had about running for U.S. Senate in 1990. The papers also include drafts of his autobiography, A Coach’s Life, first published in 1999, along with audio cassette recordings of interviews conducted with Smith by John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins, who collaborated with Smith on a revised edition of the book.

If you have questions about the collection, or if you’d like information about using the Dean Smith Papers, contact Wilson Library at

3 thoughts on “Dean Smith Papers Now Available for Research in Wilson Library”

  1. The greatest basketball coach of all time, coached the greatest basketball player of all time Michael Jordon…great read…

  2. When I was 16 years old I wrote a letter to Coach Smith inquiring about attending UNC and being a manager for his team. He wrote me back and offered encouragement. When I was 17, a week after Coach Smith won his first National Championship in 1982, I went to Chapel Hill on the way to Myrtle Beach, SC and was actually privileged enough to meet Coach Smith in his office at Carmichael Auditorium. With no appointment! He was very kind, thoughtful, and pleasant. I even got to touch the week old trophy. I will always remember Coach Smith as a person who made time for everybody. He had the gift to make you feel important.

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