Remembering Dean Smithby Senator Richard Burr
Posted on 2015-02-11
BURR. Mr. President, I wish to commemorate and celebrate the life
of Coach Dean Smith. Dean Smith's accomplishments as coach, mentor, and
teacher made him a legend in our State, and far beyond Tobacco Road.
Brooke and I were deeply saddened to hear of his passing, but he left
his indelible mark on our State. Under his stewardship, UNC-Chapel Hill
became the formidable college basketball powerhouse that it is today.
While he was a winning coach, he also encouraged his players to excel
in the classroom and taught well beyond the locker room.
Coach Smith was born in Emporia, KS, in 1931. The son of public school teachers, his lifelong dedication to teaching on and off the court was instilled in him from a young age. Dean was a high school athlete playing basketball, football, and baseball. He earned an academic scholarship to the University of Kansas. While at Kansas he played basketball and was a member of the 1952 national championship team. He began his coaching career there in 1953 as an assistant coach.
Dean Smith then served his country in the U.S. Air Force. In 1958 he was asked to serve as assistant coach for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Three years later he would become the head coach for UNC. His first season as head coach was his only losing season in his 36 year coaching career.
His early days as coach were not always so smooth. In 1965, the UNC fans hung him in effigy after a loss to my alma mater, Wake Forest University. But, soon enough, he enjoyed tremendous success as a coach. He is considered one of the greatest to ever coach the game. His accomplishments are too many to list. Some of his most memorable feats include 2 national championship titles, 11 final four appearances, 17 regular season ACC titles, 13 ACC tournament titles, 27 NCAA tournament appearances with 23 of those being consecutive. He was the National Coach of the Year four times. Dean had 879 wins in his 36-year coaching career making him one of the winningest coaches of all time. Five of his players went on to be Rookies of the Year in the NBA or ABA. He coached Team USA to gold in the 1976 Olympics. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden once said ``Dean is the best teacher of basketball that I have observed.'' His philosophy known as the ``Carolina Way'' still rings true today. Play Hard, Play Together, Play Smart.
Coach Smith's influence extended far beyond the basketball court. He was a champion for social justice. He was the first UNC coach to offer a scholarship to an African-American player. He encouraged many local businesses to desegregate during the 1960s. He served as a mentor to his players and always taught them that education came first. During his career over 95 percent of his players received their degrees. His former players remember the fact that Coach Smith not only taught them about basketball, he taught them about life.
Throughout his career, he was a fierce competitor but was always respected by his opponents. There was never a hint of scandal about how he recruited players or how he ran his program. He was a pioneer in the art of assembling a long-term winning basketball tradition. Basketball, UNC and all of North Carolina have lost a giant with his passing.
I extend my sympathy to his wife Linnea and to all of Coach Smith's family.