By Joseph Giordano || Contributing Sports Writer
There are some coaches and players in sports that are bigger than the game themselves. Their contributions to the game are far greater than win/loss records or statistics. They impact the lives of their players, teammates, and fans alike and their legacy lives on much past their time. Unfortunately, this week college basketball lost a legend and hero as legendary North Carolina University basketball coach Dean Smith has passed away at the age of 83.
Smith is often regarded as one of the greatest coaches to ever live both on and off the court. His accomplishments on the court speak for themselves. Smith finished his career with a record of (879-254) with a winning percentage of 77.6%, which is among the highest in college basketball history. During his tenure at North Carolina, he won two national championships and appeared in an astounding 11 Final Fours. He also won 13 ACC tournament championships and won 17 ACC regular season championships.
In addition to coaching North Carolina, he was named the coach of the United States Men’s National Team in the 1976 Summer Olympics, where he led the team to a gold medal. Later in 1983, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2006 he was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Although Dean Smith’s accomplishments on the court are outstanding and clearly praise worthy, he will be mostly fondly remembered for his contributions off the court. Smith often valued integrity and character over athletic ability and success. His players during his tenure at North Carolina had an outstanding graduation rate with over 96 percent of his players receiving their degrees. Rather than caring how good of a player a certain kid was, he cared what type of person they were and set them up to succeed in life. Smith also valued loyalty as he is credited as the first person to institute the practice of starting all of his senior players on senior night, whether these seniors were star players or the worst player on the team. Smith believed in rewarding his senior’s dedication so strongly that one year when the team was made up of six seniors, he decided to send all six of them on the court and receive a technical foul rather than leave one of them out.
However, Smith is probably most famously remembered for his help in desegregating college basketball. Smith famously recruited Charlie Scott, the university’s first African American scholarship athlete. By doing so, he opened the door for so many other African American athletes not only at North Carolina, but also around the country. He even went as far as to help an African American North Carolina graduate student purchase a home in all-white neighborhood and helped to integrate a local restaurant with the help of a local pastor.
These actions are not typical of a college basketball coach, but one has to remember that Dean Smith was no ordinary coach. His commitment to his players, family, and fans was unparalleled and his impact on the game of college basketball will not soon be forgotten. Although his specific statistics on the court may be forgotten, his contributions off it will immortalize him as not only one of the greatest coaches but also the greatest men to walk this Earth.
Firsr-year Joseph Giordano is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org