Wednesday, February 11, 2015

J-Speaks: The Passing of an Innovative, Life Changing, Champion College, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach

He was innovative on the collegiate hardwood. A master recruiter who got the best in the country to play for him and his guidance turn them into proud men on and off the hardwood as collegians and some even as professionals at the next level. He won a high number games, guided his team to double-digit Final Fours and helped lead them to NCAA titles. Along with that, he helped build a legacy that has stood the test of time and set a standard that lives on even under one of his former assistant coaches. On Saturday, this amazing head coach passed away.
Hall of Famer Dean Smith, who coached at the University of North Carolina from 1961-1997 passed away late Saturday night at his Chapel Hill home. He was 83 years old. He is survived by his wife of 38 years Linnea Weblemoe and their two daughters Kristen and Kelly. Smith had three other children daughters Sharon and Sandy and a son Scott from his prior marriage to Ann Cleavinger.
In his 36 years as Tar Heels head coach, Smith amassed an 879-254 record, with the 879 wins now ranking sixth all-time in NCAA history. He lead his team to 11 Final Four appearances, 13 American Coastal Conference Tournament Titles (ACC), 17 ACC Regular Season Championships. The Tar Heels won two NCAA titles in 1982 and 1993.
Along with the success on the collegiate hardwood, his teams had the highest graduation rate with 96.6 percent of his players getting their college degrees.
Individually, Smith won four National Coach of the Year Awards; nine ACC Coach of the Year Awards. He was voted into North Carolina’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. He made the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and was named into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 1976, Smith was the head coach of the United State Men’s Olympic team that captured Gold in Montreal, Canada.
“We lost a man who cannot be replaced. He was one of a kind and the sport of basketball lost one of its true pillars,” Duke University head coach and two-time Gold Medal winning USA Olympic head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Dean Smith possessed one of the greatest basketball minds, and was a magnificent teacher and tactician.”
In his amazing career, Smith recruited 18 eventual All-Americans, which included future Hall of Famers and NBA champions Michael Jordan and James Worthy. In total, Smith sent 50 players to the National Basketball Association (NBA), 25 of them were first round picks.
“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach-he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father,” Jordan, who sank the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Title game against Georgetown University, said in a statement over the weekend.
Coach was always there for me when I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”
Maybe the greatest of the young men he recruited to play for him was New York’s Charles Scott, who became the first African-American to play in the ACC from 1967-70.
His averaged 22.1 points and 7.1 boards per game at UNC, becoming a two-time All-American and a three-time all-ACC selection. His best season scoring wise happened in his senior year, where he averaged 27.1 points per contest. He was a part of the 1968 Olympic team that captured Gold in Mexico City, Mexico.
Scott was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the seventh round of the 1970 NBA Draft. He started his career with the Virginia Squires of the then American Basketball Association (ABA), where he set an ABA record for highest scoring average in his second season with 34.6 points per game.
In 1972 he joined the Phoenix Suns, where made three consecutive NBA All-Star teams. He returned to the Celtics in the 195-76 season helping them win the championship ironically enough against the Suns.
Scott went on to play for the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets to finish his career.
When he retired in 1980, Scott finished with 14,387 combined ABA/NBA career points. He averaged 20.7 points, four rebounds and 4.9 assists in his 10 combined ABA/NBA seasons.
Scott and his wife Trudy, who have three kids, sons Shaun and Shannon and daughter Simone currently live in Columbus, OH, where their son Shannon plays for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Smith was born on Feb. 28, 1931 in Emporia, KS to parents that were both teachers.
His basketball journey began at the University of Kansas under Coach Phog Allen where he was a member of the 1952 NCAA title team.
After graduating, Smith served as Allen’s assistant at Kansas during the 1953-54 season.
Few years later, Smith was asked by then UNC head coach Frank McGuire to join his staff as an assistant coach.
Smith succeeded McGuire in 1961 when he was forced to resign by Chancellor William Aycock in the wake of a major recruiting scandal and an eventual NCAA mandated probation.
The 8-9 record in his inaugural season as UNC’s head coach would be the only season that Smith did not have a winning record. His 77.6 winning percentage is ninth in NCAA history.
The programs run of greatness under Smith began when they reached the Final Four from 1967-69.
Scott was on the last two teams of that time and remembers Smith never talking to him about breaking racial barriers at the time he recruited him.
For Smith, bringing people together and being an advocate for desegregation and integrating people in the simplest of places like The Pines, a Chapel Hill restaurant back in 1964 or helping one his former players Howard Lee purchase a home in an all Caucasian neighborhood was how he saw life.
“He knew it and I knew it, so it was something we did not have to bring up,” Scott told Newsday over the weekend.
“The most important thing and individual in a racist society wants is to be treated like everybody else and Coach Smith did that on a normal basis.”
To be great in whatever it is that you do, it comes down to having the best people around you to turn your dream into a reality.
For Dean Smith, he was able to win at the rate he did because he brought people on his coaching staff and the players he recruited to play for him and was able to focus them on putting all of their great attributes together to win games and to better their minds to make them better people.
That kind of forward thinking earned Smith the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2013, which was accepted by his wife Linnea from President Barack Obama.
Along with the number of players that played for him that went on to achieve success on the NBA hardwood like Jordan, Worthy, Sam Perkins, NBA on TNT analyst Kenny Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, Rick Fox, Vince Carter and Rasheed Wallace, Smith had a number of his former players and former assistants go on to become head coaches at the pro and collegiate level as well as front office personnel in the NBA like NBA champion with 2004 Detroit Pistons and Long Beach, NY product Larry Brown; NBA champion with the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers Billy Cunningham; former Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle Supersonics now ESPN analyst George Karl; NBA champion and current Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchack; former Nuggets head coach Doug Moe and former University of Kansas head coach and current UNC head coach Roy Williams.
“We lost a man of the highest integrity who did so may thins off the court to make the world a better place to live in,” Williams said in a statement over the weekend. “Dean Smith was the perfect picture of what a college basketball coach should have been. We love him, and we will miss him.”         
Information, quotes and statistics are courtesy of 2/9/15 3:30 p.m. news crawl during the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers on NBA on ESPN/ABC with Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown and Heather Cox; 2/9/15 Newsday article “Dean of Coaches,” by Greg Logan; 2/8/15 7 p.m. NBATV news crawl during the San Antonio Spurs vs. Toronto Raptors;;;

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