Sunday, February 08, 2015

Dean Smith

Dean Smith, the coaching innovator who won two national championships at North Carolina, an Olympic gold medal in 1976 and induction into basketball's Hall of Fame more than a decade before he left the bench, has died. He was 83.

The retired coach died "peacefully" at his North Carolina home Saturday night, the school said in a statement Sunday from Smith's family. He was with his wife and five children.

Roy Williams, the current North Carolina coach who spent 10 years as Smith's assistant, said Smith "was the greatest there ever was on the court but far, far better off the court with people."

"I'd like to say on behalf of all our players and coaches, past and present, that Dean Smith was the perfect picture of what a college basketball coach should have been," Williams said in a statement. "We love him, and we will miss him."

In a career that spanned more than 40 years, Smith coached the likes of Michael Jordan and James Worthy and influenced the game and how it is played in ways that are unrivaled.

"Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith," Jordan said in a statement. "He was more than a coach -- he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever 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."

Smith's Four Corners time-melting offense led to the creation of the shot clock to counter it. He was the first coach at North Carolina, and among the first in the segregated South, to offer a scholarship to a black athlete. The now-common "point to the passer," in which a scorer acknowledges a teammate's assist, started in Chapel Hill and became a hallmark of Smith's always humble "Carolina Way."

He was a direct coaching descendant of basketball's father, James Naismith, playing and later coaching at Kansas for the inventor of the game's most famous student, Jayhawks coach Phog Allen.

Smith would pass lessons learned in Kansas along at North Carolina, adding more than a few of his own. He tutored perhaps the game's greatest player, Jordan, who burst onto the national stage as a freshman on Smith's 1982 national title team, and two of basketball's most successful coaches, fellow Hall of Famers Larry Brown and Williams.

The numerical record of Smith's accomplishments is staggering. His only losing season came in his first, and he left the game having surpassed Kentucky's Adolph Rupp as the winningest men's basketball coach in Division I history.

He led the Tar Heels to 13 ACC tournament championships, appearances in 11 Final Fours, five national title games and NCAA championships in 1982 and 1993. North Carolina won at least 20 games in each of his final 27 seasons and made 23 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament.

"We have lost a man who cannot be replaced," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He was one of a kind, and the sport of basketball lost one of its true pillars. Dean possessed one of the greatest basketball minds and was a magnificent teacher and tactician. While building an elite program at North Carolina, he was clearly ahead of his time in dealing with social issues.

"However, his greatest gift was his unique ability to teach what it takes to become a good man. That was easy for him to do because he was a great man himself. All of his players benefited greatly from his basketball teachings, but even more from his ability to help mold men of integrity, honor and purpose. Those teachings, specifically, will live forever in those he touched."

More than 50 of Smith's players went on to play professionally in the NBA or the ABA, and more played overseas. Among them: Charlie Scott, Walter Davis, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, J.R. Reid, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. Along with Williams and Brown, the only coach to win both an NCAA and NBA title, former Tar Heels with successful coaching careers include George Karl and Eddie Fogler.

In addition to wife Linnea, Smith is survived by daughters Sandy, Sharon, Kristen and Kelly; son Scott; and several grandchildren.

[2/10/15] The Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches

[2/10/15] Stories that shaped Dean Smith's career (video)

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