Things to read about Dean Smith

It’s hard to find the right words to say about the legendary North Carolina basketball coach, who died Saturday night at age 83. But here are some people who came close:

Tommy Tomlinson, ESPN: “Precious Memories“:

The dogs start barking. The door opens. And there he is.

The caregiver wheels him in. Dean is back from his trip to the office. He is wearing a white UNC ball cap and a Carolina blue windbreaker. His chin rests on his chest, and his eyes are closed.

Linnea will turn on some music later, to see if it connects. But for now the house is quiet. The caregiver wheels him around the corner, out of sight.

Adam Lucas, “The Stories Are True“:

These stories are true. We know this because we sat in Carmichael in 1974 when his team came back from eight points in 17 seconds against Duke with no three-point line. I just told that story to my children on Saturday night when we drove home from the airport after returning from the win at Boston College. My nine-year-old son was talking about a crazy NBA comeback he’d read about. “Do you know,” I said, “that Carolina came back from eight points down in 17 seconds with no three-point line?” “Whoa,” said my daughter. “Is that true?” It is true.

Dean Smith’s recruiting letter to Michael Jordan:

Sports Illustrated: “The Trials of Dean Smith“:

As for Smith, he was largely an unknown quantity. He had been assistant coach to Frank McGuire for three seasons, but he was an outlander from Kansas, content to stay in the background juggling X’s and O’s. McGuire, the man who had hired Smith, was the hero who had guided the Tar Heels to their first NCAA title, in 1957. Now McGuire had gone off to coach Philadelphia in the NBA, and on this summer’s day Smith, 30, was introduced to Carolina and the world. “The successor to Frank McGuire, one of the most dynamic men in sports, is not overpowering in personality,” a local paper noted, gagging on understatement.

Alexander Wolff, writing about SI’s 1997 Sportsman of the Year:

Time, too, has drawn for us a portrait of someone far more complex than the usual sideline screamer. Smith is a privacy freak who thrived gracefully in an intensely public line of work. He’s a traditionalist who will rejigger anything if reason warrants. We marvel at how a man so stern summons such compassion, and a man so competitive summons such perspective; how he simultaneously tends to niggling detail and sees the big picture; and how he makes his wondrously jesuitical distinctions. (For the college hoops promotional ad currently airing on ESPN, he pulled a half-basketball over his head, but that’s a stand-in waving the foam finger that says we’re no. 1. Smith refused to shoot that scene.) Loyalty versus Integrity is the trade-off that college coaches have never gotten quite right (take Loyalty, give the points), but he has proved it’s possible to abide by both.

(Picture: 1997: Coach Dean Smith during a playoff game – Bo Gordy-Stith (PBoBS) / Flickr/Creative Commons)