UNC Basketball: Happy Birthday Dean Smith!


February 28th, 2013 marks the 82nd birthday for the legendary Dean Edwards Smith. Smith was the head coach of the men’s basketball for the North Carolina Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997. When he retired from coaching in 1997, he finished his career with 879 wins. At the time, this was the record for most victories by a men’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I Basketball.

Smith played four years of basketball at the University of Kansas from 1949 to 1953. He majored in mathematics at Kansas. While playing basketball for the Kansas Jayhawks, he was a part of their 1952 national championship team. Smith was coached by Forrest “Phog” Allen. Allen was coached at Kansas by the inventor of basketball, James E. Naismith. Hence, this is why the name of Kansas’ court is James Naismith Court, and why the name of their basketball arena is Allen Fieldhouse.

Dean Smith is known for maintaining a clean image (for himself and his players) and for his high graduation rate. Close to 97% of the players who he coached, received their degrees. Smith coached the likes of George Karl, Larry Brown, Bill Bunting, Charles Scott, Bob McAdoo, Phil Ford, Mike O’Koren, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and Michael Jordan, just to name several of the great basketball players who were a part of the UNC’s basketball program over the years.

During his 37 years as Carolina’s head coach, Smith went to 11 NCAA Final Fours (1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998), won 13 ACC Tournament Championships (1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1997), 17 ACC Regular Season Championships (1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993, 1995), an NIT Championship (1971) and two NCAA national championships (1982, 1993). He also won a gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics as the head coach for Team USA. Back then, USA Basketball used the best college players instead of the top U.S. professional basketball players.

Other accolades won by Smith include being the National Coach of the Year (1977, 1979, 1982, 1993), ACC Coach of the Year (1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1988, 1993), North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (1981), Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (1996), National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2006 inaugural class), Basketball Hall of Fame (1983), FIBA Hall of Fame (2007 inaugural class) and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (1997).

Here are some Black History facts. Dean Smith’s father, Alfred Smith, coached the Emporia High Spartans to the state title in Kansas in 1934. Their 1934 was known for having the first Black basketball player in Kansas high school basketball tournament history. A little over 30 years later, Smith recruited UNC’s first Black scholarship athlete, Charles Scott. Smith also helped integrate a local Chapel Hill restaurant, The Pines, with the help of a local minister and a Black North Carolina theology student. In 1965, Smith helped Howard Lee, a Black graduate student, buy a home in an all-White neighborhood.

Smith is credited with developing the “tired signal” (when a player needs to come out of the game), the “four corners offense” (a strategy for running time off the clock when you have the lead), huddling at the free throw line before a foul shot, pointing a finger at a teammate who passed the ball as a sign of respect to the one who gave the assist, having the point guard call the defensive plays, the point zone, run-and-jump and double-teaming the screen-and-roll. Smith also made sure that his players were clean-cut whenever they had away games and if they were sitting out a game due to an infraction or an injury.

Dean Smith, thank you for all that you have done for the game of basketball, civil rights and for the University of North Carolina. Happy Birthday, and many more…